Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies



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a mother involves an enormous sacrifice on the side of mothers. Sula believes that it is better for a woman to live without a man and she becomes an outcast in her community. Nonetheless, even Sula is forced to experience the need to possess and the absence of a man in her relationship with the only man of the community who does not reject her. The community’s men give Sula the final label because she poses a threat to their masculinity. The differences between Sula’s and Nel’s views of marriage, motherhood, and a woman’s role in the society become the main causes for their estrangement.
However, Sula values her friendship with Nel because in contrast to male/female relationships and mother/daughter relationships, women’s friendship involves equality of participation and is based on free choice. Nel represents Sula’s center in childhood and these two girls find the sense of belonging in each other’s company. The girls realize at a young age that their situation in the society is complicate because they are African American and female. Sula and Nel help each other define their personalities, they provid
e each other with the protection they lack and they fight against oppression together. They girls feel safe in each other’s company and they complement each other. Sula never competes with Nel and sees Nel as an essential and equal human being. Neither Sula nor Nel find this kind of protection, understanding, and equality

in their relationships with men.
To conclude, women’s friendship is the only relationship in the novel which does not involve the reduction of personalities and the only relationship which supports a healthy growth of characters. The fact that the female characters in the novel are left alone and that they experience the absence of male characters intensifies the importance of women’s bonding. Women’s friendship helps the two female characters see that they are not alone in facing the life’s obstacles in their adolescent years and their friendship enables them to cope with social expectations. Nevertheless, most female characters do not appreciate women’s bond. But when there is a lack of women’s bonding, women’s lives in the novel are not fulfilling. Toni Morrison portrays Sula’s and Nel’s friendship in the novel to show that if women cultivated women’s bonds, they would be able to fight against the oppression.

8. Bibliography

Abel, Elizabeth. “(E)Merging Identities: The Dynamics of Female Friendships in Contemporary Fiction By Women.” Signs 6.3 (1981): 413-35. JSTOR. Web 18 Feb 2012.
Bryant, Cedric Gael. “The Orderliness of Disorder: Madness and Evil in Toni Morrisons Sula.Black American Literature Forum 24.4 (1990): 731-45. JSTOR. Web. 3 Feb 2012.
Beaulieu, Elizabeth Ann, ed. The Toni Morrison Encyclopedia. London: Greenwood Press, 2003. Print.
Christian, Barbara. Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers. New York: Pergamon Press, 1986. Print.
---. “Gloria Naylors Geography: Community, Class, and Patriarchy in The Women of Brewster Place and Linden Hills.” Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Penguin Group, 1990. 348-73. Print.
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc., 1991. Print.

Fultz, Lucille. Toni Morrison: Playing with Difference. Illinois: The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 2003. Print.
Gillespie, Diane, and Missy Dehn Kubitschek. “Who Cares? Women-centered Psychology in Sula.” Black American Literature Forum 24.1 (1990): 21-48. JSTOR. Web. 4 Jan 2012.

Henderson, Mae Gwendolyn. “Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics, and the Black Woman Writers Literary Tradition.” Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Penguin Group, 1990. 116-42. Print.
Hirsch, Marianne. “Maternal Narratives:
Cruel Enough to Stop the Blood.” Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Penguin Group, 1990. 415-30. Print.
hooks, bell.
Aint I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. London: Pluto Press, 1982. Print.
Lawrence-Webb, Claudia, Melissa Littlefield, and Joshua N. Okundaye. “African American Intergender Relationships: A Theoretical Exploration of Roles, Patriarchy, and Love.” Journal of Black Studies 34.5 (2004): 623-39. JSTOR. Web 3 Apr 2012.

Mayberry, Susan Neal. “Something Other than a Family Quarrel: The Beautiful Boys in Morrisons Sula.” African American Review 37.4 (2003): 517-33. JSTOR. Web.
7 May 2011.
McKay, Nellie. “An Interview with Toni Morrison.”
Contemporary Literature 24.4 (1983): 413-29. JSTOR. Web 10 Oct 2011.

Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1973. Print.

Parker, Betty Jean. “Complexity: Toni Morrisons Women.” Conversations with Toni Morrison. Ed. Danielle Taylor-Guthrie. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1994. 10-29. Print.
Stepto, Robert. “Intimate Things in Place: Conversation with Toni Morrison.” C
onversations with Toni Morrison. Ed. Danielle Taylor-Guthrie. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1994. 10-29. Print.

English Résumé
The purpose of this Bachelor’s thesis is to analyze interpersonal relationships in African American community in Toni Morrison’s novel Sula (1973). The thesis analyzes the mother/daughter relationships, the male/female relationships portrayed in the novel and puts a special emphasis on the significance of women’s friendship between two main characters- Sula Peace and Nel Wright.
B
oth Sula and Nel grow up without the necessary support and care from their mothers and both of them are struggling in their relationships with men in their adulthood. The strong friendship bond between Sula and Nel makes it possible for the girls to deal with their dysfunctional relationships with their mothers and also to fight against the oppression in their childhood.
The characters in the novel face many difficulties when trying to assimilate into the American mainstream society and the racial oppression has a great impact on their interpersonal relationships. Male characters are struggling to gain respect of the dominant society and are mostly absent in the novel. The problems of emasculation of African American men, the frustrations these men experience in American society and the ways in which these frustrations consequetly project into the interpersonal relationships in African American community are also discussed in this thesis.

Women’s friendship is the only interpersonal relationship in the novel which helps Sula and Nel fight against the oppression but Sula’s and Nel’s different views of life and of a woman’s role in the society set them apart. However, neither Sula nor Nel find support in their relationships with men in adulthood. I argue that the character’s submission to the dominant society’s views of marriage and the social roles destroys their relationships.

Résumé in Czech
Tato bakalářská práce se zaměřuje na rozbor mezilidských vztahů v afroamerické komunitě v románu Sula (1973) spisovatelky Toni Morrisonové. Práce analyzuje vztahy matek s dcerami, vztahy mezi muži a ženami a klade důraz zejména na důležitost přátelství mezi dvěma hlavními hrdinkami románu, a to přátelství mezi Sulou Peacovou a Nel Wrightovou.
Sula i Nel vyrůstají bez potřebné podpory a péče svých matek a obě dvě se v dospělosti potýkají s problémovými vztahy s muži. Silné přátelské pouto umožňuje Sule a Nel vypořádat se s nefunngujícími vztahy s jejich matkami a také jim napomáhá při boji proti útisku v jejich dětství.
Postavy tohoto románu čelí mnohým těžkostem ve své snaze přizpůsobit se americké většinové společnosti a potýkají se s rasovým utiskováním, což má velký dopad na jejich mezilidské vztahy. Mužské postavy zápasí o získání respektu většinové společnosti a jsou v románu po většinu času nepřítomni. Práce se mimo jiné zabývá problémem emaskulace afroamerických mužů a frustracemi, které tito muži v americké společnosti pociťují a také tím, jak se tyto frustrace následně promítají do mezilidských vztahů v afroamerické komunitě.

Přátelství mezi ženami je jediným mezilidským vztahem, který Sule a Nel pomáhá v boji proti útisku, avšak jejich rozdílný pohled na život a na roli ženy ve společnosti obě ženy v dopělosti rozdělí a ani jedna z žen nenajde v dospělosti potřebnou oporu po boku muže. V práci tvrdím, že za zničením vztahů mezi postavami stojí podřizování se pohledu většinové společnosti na manželství a na role mužů a žen ve společnosti.


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