In Toni Morrison’s Sula, Morrison uses the duality of motherhood and fatherhood to emphasize gender roles. Morrison tells us what society’s vision of what moms and dad should be and what they should do. She points that moms and dads are to stay within their gender roles because society’s hierarchy, which shows that men have more power and duty and are more important to the world than a womens, will be eventually messed up if they don’t stay within their roles. In society women are mainly given domestic roles like cleaning and cooking. They are expected to have children and get married, now they have to provide for a whole family and women don’t even get to work most of the time so the money in the house only comes from men. Men on the other hand are completely opposite, they technically have free will to do anything because men have more say and power than women. Men are expected to go out and get a job, fight in the war, get pleasure as he pleases. Toni shows these characteristics of both men and women in the book Sula, but also in the duality of motherhood and fatherhood.
The motherhood role in Sula plays a humongous part in almost all the female characters lives. At some point in time throughout the book each female has motherhood moments whether it be negative or positive. In Sula, a mother is defined as domestic, or has to uphold “traditional values,” meaning that they stay home, take care of children, clean, cook, and make sure her spouse is happy. Some women like Hannah who is the daughter of Eva and mother of Sula, and Nel who is the daughter of a New Orleans prostitute Helena Wright feel as if it is their obligation to live up to those expectations for the rest of their lives. Where Sula on the other hand rejects these expectations and gender roles of a mother.
Sula Peace grew up next to her mother Hannah Peace. Hannah as a mom was very intimate and had a way with men. She felt like a woman’s job was to please men. Morrison states, “Hannah rubbed no edges, made no demands, made the man feel as though he were complete and wonderful just as he was.” This quote speaks on gender roles and motherhood of how women are supposed to treat men in that point in time. Hannah isn’t the only one Morrison speaks on. Nel exemplifies motherhood qualities because she does exactly what society wants her to do. Nel gets married to a man named Jude, they eventually have children. Nel and Jude were happy. Jude was a working man while Nel stayed home, took care of the kids, cooked, cleaned and made sure Jude was happy. Women have always been second to men. Women weren’t really allowed to have jobs or even get an education. But not every women likes to follow the rules of society.
In the book Sula Morrison makes sure that some of her characters juxtapose the motherhood roles of society, rejecting the gender roles of a female. Sula is a prime example. In the book, Sula (the character) rejects the female gender norms by not getting married. With her not being married, she is criticized by family and friends. Eva the grandmother of Sula, said to Sula, “Ain’t no woman got no business floatin’ around without no man.” This reveals that women that don’t follow the motherhood and gender roles of society will be talked down on because it is an expectation for all women. As the story goes on Sula never gets married. She gets into a relationship but it ends after a short period of time. Sula was the female that went to college and got her education unlike her best friend Nel. Sula wasn’t the only one who didn’t accept motherhood duties. Helena Wright, mother of Nel was not a very good mother to her kids. It was probably because she didn’t really have a mother figure herself. Her birth mom Rochelle was creole prostitute and didn’t have much to do with Helena. Therefore Helena never had an example to look at. At her own child’s wedding she couldn’t gain enough energy to get her act together. It states, “She was not only a little drunk, she was weary and had been for week”. Helena was not in a mental state to be a mother so she messed up most of the time. This continues to connect to gender roles because her child counted on her mom to prepare most of the food and clean up. “Her house had to be thoroughly cleaned, chickens had to be plucked, cakes and pies made..” Helena is so wrapped up in her mental world that she strays away from her motherhood and gender role duties.
Males play a major part in the duality too. Fathers. Fathers are supposed to be the one who works a nine to five job 5 days a week and has to come home to a clean home, food prepared. Males have always one upped on women. Males can go to college, sleep around with women, get a good paying job and women aren’t supposed to complain or talk back about it. Ajax is a man that Sulla gets attached to. During their first encounter when Nel and Sula were young. He called them “pig meat” which really shows that men don’t really care about females nor do they have respect for them. But as Sula aged she became attached to Ajax. Ajax was a known young man. Morrison states, “Ajax was very nice to his women. His women of course, knew it and it provoked them into murderous battles over him in the streets.” This reveals that men don’t don’t personally care about women. They feel as if they are able to sleep around and get pleasure when they want. So Morrison makes the roles of males very clear throughout the book Sula.
The fathers in the book Sula don’t play a major role in their kids lives. Almost all of the fathers in the book abandoned their family at some point in time. Eva’s husband Boyboy Peace abandoned his wife and 3 kids were small. Jude ends up abandoning Nel and his kids after an affair with Sula. The women in the book like Sula has to care of themselves. Sula states “Then I really would act like what you call a man. Every man I ever knew left his children” This reveals that fathers, black fathers at that don’t stay around long. Which is actually a connection to reality.
In conclusion, the duality of motherhood and fatherhood connects back to gender roles. Society build women to be a certain way; domestic. While on the other hand they chose men to be superior, even though the men in the book weren’t really around. Society makes it seem like women aren’t or can’t live without men in their life. But Sula breaks that chain that society puts women in. So as readers we can point out examples of motherhood and fatherhood roles and how they are broken.
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