Sula and Nel as Soulmates in Toni Morrison's Sula
In examining the two distinct characters of Nel (Wright) Greene and Sula Peace from Toni Morrison's Sula, a unique individual soul emerges from the two women. This soul takes into account good, bad, and gray area qualities. They gray area qualities are needed because, while Nel exhibits more of the stereotypical "good" qualities than Sula, the stereotypes of good and bad don't fit the definition completely. Nel and Sula combined create a type of ying and yang soul, each half including some of the other half. While at times the two women are polar opposites of one another in point of view, they arrive at their opinions with the help of the other. The two characters need each other in order to exist to the extent that they become "two throats and one eye" (Morrison 2167). A physical example of how connected the two girls are is seen when they line up head to head forming a straight, continuous, and complete line (2124).
The greatest influence on a growing girl is her mother, and in some cases, like Sula, her grandmother. In order to fully grasp the connection between Nel and Sula, one must examine who and what their mothers were and what traits and beliefs they handed down to their daughters. Nel's mother, Helene, sought to teach her daughter the ways to be a stereotypical "good woman," a supportive wife and a caring mother. As an example to her daughter, Helene took great pleasure in raising Nel and found in her "more comfort and purpose than she had ever hoped to find" in her life (2105). Helene took pride in motherhood and was proudest when someone complemented on how "obedient and polite" Nel was (2105). Helene's embracing of these qualities, an accommodation to the status quo of her time and place, was reinforced by the fact that she was seen as one of the more impressive women in The Bottom (2105). Helene accommodated to the extent of allowing the town to change her name to Helen. Nel, growing up with her mother's example, would eventually become the type of person her mother was, although she did regard her mother as overpowering when she was you (2111).
In contrast to Helene, the people of The Bottom, including Helene saw Sula's mother, Hannah, as "sooty" (2110). Hannah lived outside the status quo and did not conform to anyone's expectations but her own. Hannah's greatest influence on Sula would be in regards to sex. After Hannah's husband, Rekus, died just after Sula's birth, Hannah chose to live as her mother, Eva, did, a single woman who entertained assorted men as she pleased. Hannah had sex when, where, and with whom she pleased. She did not see sex as anything more than a moment's pleasure. Her constant sexual relations, mostly with the "husbands of her friends and neighbors," taught Sula that sex was nothing special, "pleasant and frequent but otherwise unremarkable." While Hannah was constantly having sex around her and she knew it, Sula actually only caught her mother...