In her 1974 novel, Sula, Toni Morrison develops the story of two girls’ lives: Sula Peace and Nel Write. Morrison places accidental events throughout the novel in order to help develop the characters, and to also further the plot of the story. These accidents not only define specific points in the girls’ lives, but also allow the girls to grow and develop from that one defining moment. Because each accident helps to shape the girls into who they become, every event after that accident has a domino effect. Morrison shapes the story by colliding the events, developments, and accidents together.
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Later on, we see another side of the young girls. During the funeral that was held for Chicken Little, the girls “did not touch hands or look at each other” (Morrison 64). Morrison uses the aftermath of the Chicken Little accident to further explain the two different roles that the girls take on. With Nel, the funeral causes her to “turn to granite” (Morrison 64), and she “expect[s] the sheriff … [to] point [his] finger at [her at] any moment… [because] she felt convicted” (Morrison 65). On the other hand, “Sula simply cried... [and] let the tears roll into her mouth and slide down her chin to dot the front of her dress” (Morrison 65). Their complete opposite reactions to the funeral help to show their maturity of the situation. Nel, as with the actual act of the murder, is the sensible one. She is looking around, waiting to be blamed for the death, while Sula is dealing with the pain in a complete child-like manner with her “soundless…and heaving” (Morrison 65) cries. By using these two complete contrasting views of grief, one being mature and adult-like, the other childish and excessive, Morrison accomplishes characterizing Nel as the adult and Sula as the child.
The next accident that Morrison uses to show the development within the characters happens with just Sula. Her mother, Hannah, is “bending to light the yard fire” (Morrison 75), when “the flames from the yard fire [began to] lick…the dress” (Morrison 75) that Hannah was wearing. While other people ran to try and help Hannah, “Sula st[ood] on the back porch just looking” (Morrison 78) at the scene before her. It could be said that Sula only watched her mother burn to death because she was “struck dumb” (Morrison 78), but based on Sula’s reaction to the death of Chicken Little, it’s more probable that “Sula had watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed, but because she was interested” (Morrison 78) in only a way that a young, immature child could be interested in flames. With this accident, though, Morrison does show an increase in Sula’s maturity level. Sula doesn’t weep silently for her mother, as she had for Chicken Little. However, she doesn’t close off her emotions and turn her face to stone as Nel had done at Chicken Little’s funeral. Sula is in-between those two emotions, which is a maturity progression from her emotions at the funeral.
In order to show that progression of the characters throughout the entire cast of the novel, Morrison had to include every person in the book. The towns people march in a parade of “strut[ing], skip[ing]…and shuffle[ing] down the road[s]” (Morrison 160). They, including Nel, were “aggressive…and paraded down the Main Street” (Morrison 160-161). The people were full of “excitement and joy” (Morrison 161), and they marched onward to the newly constructed tunnel, and, in their “enraged [need to] smash” (Morrison 161), they “went too deep [and]...