Sula, Part One

The story, Sula, Part One, gives a detailed account of how people in the society develop personalities. Some develop traits imparted or imposed to them by their parents or guardians. These traits become their character through which they are defined and the manner of treatment which they receive from community members. Others defy the training given by their parents or guardians and chose their own style of life. Another class of people comprises those who are caught up in circumstances that totally disorient them from their normal life. Later in life, these individuals may try to refocus again but to others, it may be too late. The main objective of this paper is to analyze how people develop their personality and how this affects the other members of the society.

Sula is a girl who becomes a friend to Nel, Helene’s daughter, during the burial of Cecile, Helene’s grandmother. Helene did not approve of this friendship because of her eyes had a birthmark which is linked to her mother’s bad reputation. This level of Helene’s strictness on which friend Nel should associate with was imparted to her by her grandmother through strict religious rules. She also raises Nel through the same strict rules. However, Sula defends her friendship by her good behavior during her visit irrespective of her mother’s bad reputation.

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The story opens with changes at Bottom. This place was once inhabited by African-American community who led a vibrant life. All the buildings are being demolished and the ground leveled to build a golf course. Slowly the community is being replaced by rich white people. The name “Bottom” for the land in the valley came about when a slave owner made slaves to work for him to be given a plot in this valley “at the bottom.” Instead he gave them one in the hills, which he cheated them, was the “bottom of heaven.” At first the slave was so excited without knowing that the give plot was not good for farming. These circumstances, thus, plunged into a difficult life than they ever expected. For these people there is nothing they can do to reverse the present situation in their life so they will enjoy the fortunes and be resilient to the hardships associated with this place.

Shadrack is a victim of war which leaves him with a shell shock so severe at only when he was only 20 years of age. He finds himself in hospital, where at one of the meals he observed his hands growing rapidly making him so horrified .This forced the nurses to put him in a straitjacket where he could not see them. Later after discharge due to congestion, he is arrested and put in jail. Here, he lost hope. Fortunately, he managed to look at his reflection while in the toilet which made him so gratefully relieved since he felt a great sense of liveliness in him.

After being sent back home, Bottom, fears that he might die soon floods his mind. In an effort to curb these fears so as to cope with his the hopeless situation circumstances have pt him into, he launches a National Suicide Day (NSD). This he celebrates on every third of January in each year. Carrying a hangman’s rope and ringing a bell, he marches around town shouting to people saying they should either kill themselves or if they want they kill one another. This he did to infiltrate the death phenomenon into the consciousness of the community using NSD as a tool. Although sounding disturbing at first, the day was soon accepted as a routine throughout their life. Shadrack refused to accept the offer of doom circumstances put on his table and not only he chose to live, but he also went on to inculcate a better attitude to life in the Bottom community.

In contrast to Shadrack is Rochelle, a prostitute. She is the mother of Helene and hence Nel’s grandmother. Because of her lifestyle, Helene is so uncomfortable of her presence in the deceased Cecile’s house while Nel is much affected during her interaction with her. She is not bound by any conventional boundaries such as religion or femininity.

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In any community, there are few extremists but the majority are the liberals. Nel’s mother is brought up in such an environment with which she had no option but to adhere to. The grandmother wanted to make her very different from her mother Rochelle whose wildness she did not like. Helene imperatively conformed to this middle class, repressive, dull and monotonous life of life at the Bottom. She wants to impose this life to Nel later when the whites settle and build the golf course. However, this does not appeal to Nel who realizes that her mothers struggle to compose herself shows that she is not strong despite her strong values. Therefore, she resolves to find strength and hence personality from within herself.

Sula’s personality is shown to be more complex when she does not like Hannah who claims to love her. To her love is an involuntary feeling that can be both a romantic understanding, like the one between her and Shadrack, as a well as a source of frustration or burdensome. Later, she swings a boy who accidentally fell into a river and drowned. She decided to keep this incident covered as well as her friend Nel who was witness. This happening demonstrates the kind of human emotions which young people have to confront with as they graduate to adulthood. The role played by presence, absence and extent of guilty shows different personalities and personality development. The whites don’t feel anything to Chicken Little’s death, a factor which shows a completely different, culture attributed attitude to death.


The Novel, Sula, part one, gives an account of the life of the people at the Bottom community which comprises a wide range of characters of people. It narrates small but very small and intricate issues but of great significance to personal and social development. The main character, Sula, is young girl brought up without proper parenting and exemplary figures. Therefore, like many other characters, she struggles to make an identity for herself.

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