Symbolism in Toni Morrison’s “Sula”
Toni Morrison is one of the most renowned American writers famous for her exploration of controversial topics in a humorous and solemn manner. Her novel Sula is one of the brightest illustrations of the author’s style, and it is a story that can hardly leave a reader untouched. One of the most remarkable aspects of the novel is its symbolism. This paper includes a brief analysis of the meaning behind Sula’s life and her impact on the community conveyed with the help of a rose as its symbolic representation.
Although flowers repeatedly appear in the text, a rose is the central one associated with Sula. The girl has a birthmark resembling a rose above her eye, and the writer describes it in a very symbolic way stating that “it was not a stemmed rose, or a snake, it was Hannah’s ashes” (Morrison 114). On the other hand, it is still a rose – a beautiful flower oozing pleasant aroma – so it is a symbol of beauty marking the girl’s entire life. On the other hand, the author points at danger and doom, mentioning a snake and ashes. It becomes clear that the girl’s beauty is acknowledged by people around, but it is also characterized by danger and unavoidable disaster. The mother’s fate is similar to her daughter’s life, so Sula, the beauty, will inevitably have a miserable life, becoming ashes just like any other flower.
In her relationship with men, Sula can also be compared with a rose. She is as beautiful and intoxicating as a rose. A lot of men fell the victims of her beauty and were ready to give everything away for her. They were prepared to betray their wives and face disapproval in their communities. For instance, Nel saw Sula as “the black rose that Jude had kissed,” acknowledging her power over men (Morrison 138). However, Sula is also as vulnerable as the flower when she falls in love with a man. She is ready to be in his hands and care about nothing: “She put her head under his chin with no hope in the world of keeping anything at all at bay” (Morrison 131). She was pleased to be vulnerable and dependent on the man of her choice. However, like any other flower, Sula became a victim as the man enjoyed her aroma and beauty and threw her away, causing her death.
Importantly, the used symbol emphasizes the shortness of the character’s life. Sula dies young and beautiful, just like a rose once it is cut. The description of Sula’s funeral also suggests that people accepted the fact that the black rose of their community had a considerable effect on their lives. Nel felt that her former friend could communicate with people after her death as “Sula answered them even then” by pouring rain and forcing people to leave (Morrison 173). They enjoyed its beauty during her life, and she remained a symbol of poisonous love.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that Toni Morrison manages to describe Sula’s character and the way she was seen in her community by using a symbol of a rose. Sula was like a beautiful flower that was vulnerable and seducing, and she changed different people’s lives. Sula was many people’s joy and sorrow, and just like a flower, she adorned the life of her entire community. The author manages to convey this idea by comparing the woman with the flower.
Morrison, Toni. Sula. Vintage International, 2004.