Discussion Questions for Sula by Toni Morrison
Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960
"1919" and "1920"
Where is "Bottom"? How was the neighborhood established? How is the name symbolic?
How does the narrative about Shadrack and "National Suicide Day" frame the novel? How does it set a tone for the novel?
Is Shadrack a prophet? Is he a madman? Or is he both? What role does he serve in the community?
Explore the relationship between Nel, her mother Helene, her grandmother Rochelle, and her great-grandmother Cecile. Why are the women separated? What separates them?
Why is the incident on the train between Helene and the conductor significant? What happens as the train travels further south?
How does Morrison use the notion of defilement in "1920"? Who is defiled? Why?
"1921" and "1922"
Explore the symbolic resonances of the Peace family. Is there peace in the Peace family? How are the names symbolic? How is Sula's name different?
Why does Eva leave her children? Why does she return with only one leg?
Why does Eva take Plum to the outhouse? What does she realize in asking herself this question?
Who are the "deweys" and what do they represent?
Why does Eva set Plum on fire? How does the narrative describe this scene? Why is the description important?
How are Nel and Sula becoming aware of their sexuality in this chapter? How do we sense this awareness? Do we also sense a threat of violence?
What does Hannah say to upset Sula?
Why do Nel and Sula watch Chicken Little drown? Explore the significance of his name and his death, especially in relation to the name of the neighborhood "Bottom".
Why does Sula go inside Shadrack's shack?
"1923" and "1927"
"1923" opens with the line, "The second strange thing was . . ." -- what are the other strange things that happen? How does this line establish a tone for the chapter?
Why does Hannah ask Eva if she loves them, if she loved them as children? What is Eva's answer? Does Eva love her children?
What is the reason Eva gives for killing Plum?
How does Hannah catch on fire? What does Eva do? What does Sula do? What do the charactersí actions reveal about their feelings for Hannah?
"1927" ends with the wedding of Nel and Jude. How does this ceremonious ending parallel other incidents in the novel -- the funeral of Cecile at the beginning of the novel, the funeral of Chicken Little, etc. How are Nel and Sulaís friendship impacted by such ceremonies?
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