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Stacy Keser’s Class Summary on Sula

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In class we analyzed the characters in Sula, discussing if we thought they could be read as disabled characters. Two main points that I got from small group discussion and large group discussion in class regarding Sula circulated around the characters Sula and Eva.  The first idea is how Eva’s killing of Plum and attempt to save Hannah were both acts of compassion and good intent; the second idea is how Sula does not have a literal disability, but is treated as if she is disabled because of her birthmark, nonetheless, her birthmark is empowering for her. This resonates with the broad idea of disability that we have discussed throughout the semester, that people tend to have skewed views of the disabled without considering their actual intent and creating a poor stigma around those with physical deformities leading to maltreatment and unwanted assumptions.

We started off class with small group discussion.  One idea that our group focused on was Eva, her killing of Plum and saving Hannah.  We were discussing if we agreed with this class document prompt, “ Significantly, however, she performs all these functions out of compassion rather than out of any desire for self-aggrandizement”. Our group agreed with this proposition. We felt that Eva did not kill Plum out of hate or aggression, but that her intent was good and compassionate in a way. She could not watch her son in misery and continue with self inflicting harm any longer. She thought it would be best to put him out of his misery and being his mother, she realized it was her responsibility to do so.  Our group discussed that it was a very similar situation to her attempting to protect Hannah. Once again, she was sacrificing because it was her responsibility to protect and her intent was good in both cases despite the very different scenarios. But, our group was struggling with why she chose to burn her son to death being that it is a very painful death and brutal way to kill someone. We thought this scene would have been more logical if she killed him in a more sane manner. However, our group concluded that Eva is not an indecent character and that the reader needs to look past what she did to realize why she did it, Eva was trying to do good even though it was in a way that does not appear so.

Next, we transitioned from looking at the characters individualistically to a more societal analyzation. The second idea that I got from class was in the large group discussion regarding Sula’s character within the community.  We touched on the class document that quoted,  “The body that violates the norm becomes a marked pariah and disrupter of the social order.” One aspect about her character that we discussed was that Sula does not have an actual disability, but is perceived as a burden in the community, disrupting social order as one with an actually disability might be seen as doing.  Sula’s action’s were the more accurate source of her being treated as an outsider. But, her birthmark was mainly what the community was blaming her ‘wrongness’ on.  Our large group talked about how Sula sleeping with white men was defying the social norm in society and that her not fitting in or being assimilated into those expectations and norms was the idea and portrayal of disability. People with disabilities can often be looked at as outcast as well. Their actions and appearance alone can be what society defines them by just as they had defined Sula by.

Our small group discussion paralleled with the big group discussion considering how Sula’s birthmark was empowering. She was not confined by her birthmark nor see it as a burden, while the community was being controlled and bothered by the misconception of it, being the source of evil. Sula still lived her life the way she wanted to live it without being affected by the community’s judgment and rejection; ironically, the communities were the ones dramatically affected by this birthmark simply because of a misconstrued perception. We also mentioned that Sula is a very  ndependent character and this independence gives her a sense of freedom and empowerment as well.

Also, in addition to the idea of empowerment, our small group  considered the story, The Birthmark. We compared Georgiana to Sula. Our group concluded that the only real similarity between both characters is that they both had birthmarks on their faces that others perceived in a hateful, disgusted manner. Georgiana like Sula initially was not bothered by the birthmark and even commented how some considered it to be a charm. However, their differences are apparent when Georgiana starts to become obsessed with it, she wants to desperately rid herself of such a ‘horrible’ and ‘hideous’ mark on her face, simply because her husband views it as very grotesque. Georgiana allows her husband’s insults and judgmental stares to consume her well being and becomes miserable herself. Our group than proceeded to talk about Sula’s character. Sula differed from Georgiana because she was never bothered or confined by others harsh judgment. She simply went about doing what she pleased without taking notice of this birthmark on her face that the community looked at with disdain. We felt that their birthmarks were not physical deformities nor a disability, but that Georgiana unlike Sula gradually became disabled from it because she allowed someone else to become so disgusted by it that she too became revolted by it.

The novel Sula represents some accurate perceptions of the portrayal of disability.  Eva’s situation is a good example of how easy it is for observers to immediately make assumptions when things to do not fall under the social norm. Many cannot look past what they are seeing in order to truly understand the real significance of one’s actions or behavior. Sula’s character is another good example on how the community can be more disabling for the individual than they are for themselves. But, Sula proves that even if one cannot be categorized into the social norm status, they are still capable of living their lives despite others’ rejections and have a sense of empowerment. Overall, this brings up the question of, will the disabled allow the community and society to confine them as outcast or are they able to surpass that and find their own sense of empowerment?

Written by skeser88

October 28th, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Posted in class summaries