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Sula | Quotes

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1.

They had absorbed it into their thoughts, into their language, into their lives.


Narrator, Part 1, 1919

National Suicide Day, Shadrack's one day devoted to the tremendous fear that World War I brought to him, becomes part of the life of the people in the Bottom. They say they don't care about his annual exhibition of madness, but in reality it has become part of their own calendar, an expected event they simply work around.

2.

If she were really custard, then there was a chance that Nel was too.


Narrator, Part 1, 1920

Nel realizes her mother really isn't so proud and powerful when it comes to men outside the Bottom. If it is possible for men to think of her as soft and vulnerable, Nel could also be taken advantage of or used that way.

3.

She didn't willingly set foot on the stairs but once, and that was to light a fire, the smoke of which was in her hair for years.


Narrator, Part 1, 1921

This quotation foreshadows what Eva will do to her son Plum after he comes home from World War I a heroin addict. Unwilling to care for a broken man, she sets him on fire and later has to admit it to Hannah, her daughter.

4.

Pig meat. The words were in all their minds.


Narrator, Part 1, 1922

Men hanging out on the streets of the Bottom view the passing young girls as sexual objects meant for their consumption. The girls feel their attentive gaze and hear Ajax, a handsome young man the girls coo about, softly say these two simple words; the girls consider it a compliment. They walk along delighted, relishing their shared secret.

5.

They found relief in each other's personality.


Narrator, Part 1, 1922

Sula and Nel complement each other like fire and water. Nel is consistent and reliable, while Sula provides the spontaneity and the joy.

6.

I just don't like her. That's the difference.


Hannah, Part 1, 1922

Sula overhears Hannah saying these words to her friends. From that day forward, Sula decides she will never trust or rely on anyone except herself.

7.

I had room in my heart, but not in my womb, not no more.


Eva, Part 1, 1923

Eva rationalizes her decision to kill Plum rather than intervene to save him from his drug addiction. She had to take desperate measures to save him when he was three years old and cannot bear the thought of having to care for a helpless baby again.

8.

She had seen Sula standing on the back porch just looking.


Narrator, Part 1, 1923

Sula seems to have taken to heart her mother's dislike for her and calmly, emotionlessly views her mother's burning as a spectacle, an event of great interest. Eva, ever vindictive, believes this about Sula and sees it as an example of Sula's evil nature.

9.

Jude himself longed more than anybody else to be taken.


Narrator, Part 1, 1927

Jude believes that building something makes a man a man. A white-owned construction company refuses to hire him, which diminishes his self-respect.

10.

The purpose of evil was to survive it.


Narrator, Part 2, 1937

The black community in the Bottom views evils such as illness, famine, ignorance, and white people as something to be endured, coming out the other side of the struggle as better people surviving together in a stronger, more resilient community.

11.

Who knows—you may make the brightest flame of them all.


Sula, Part 2, 1937

Sula threatens Eva after they argue about her coming back to the Bottom still unmarried. Sula reveals not only that she knows that Eva killed Plum, but that watching Hannah burn was interesting to her and she is just as capable of burning Eva to death if Eva steps out of line.

12.

Talking to Sula had always been a conversation with herself.


Narrator, Part 2, 1937

The deep bonds of friendship between Nel and Sula are still intact after years apart. Sula's self-reliance and spontaneity excite Nel and allow her to rediscover and bring forth qualities in herself that were smothered by her mother growing up.

13.

The closed place in the water spread before them.


Narrator, Part 2, 1937

Sula and Nel have kept quiet about Chicken's accidental drowning years before when they were 12. Their shared secret is the closed place that simultaneously binds them together and pushes them apart. Nel had always thought the calm she felt watching the boy submerge in the river was a sign of maturity, but she realizes it was the contentment that follows the witnessing of an exciting event.

14.

Why even in hate here I am thinking of what Sula said.


Nel, Part 2, 1937

Even after Sula betrays Nel and destroys her marriage to Jude, she needs and wants to define herself through Sula's eyes and words. Sula is her alter ego.

15.

All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude.


Nel, Part 2, 1965

Twenty-five years after Sula's death, Nel hasn't yet resolved her feelings about Sula and their lifelong friendship. After talking with Eva, who is now senile, she realizes that Sula was right all along that Eva was a vengeful, hateful person. This inspires a revelation: their friendship was so strong, it should have been able to survive Sula's betrayal. She realizes too late that she had for years misplaced the feelings of longing in her heart. They were not for Jude but for Sula.

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