I was all set to revive my reading habit, which had plummeted the last couple of years owing to a hectic lifestyle with huge elements of work and academics woven into it. I now have about 30 books to catch up with and Sula, being the smallest (also the most enticing work, what with it winning the Nobel Prize et all) I decided to dive head-first into it. I had heard a lot about Toni Morrison (rather, you will be shamed if you haven’t heard of her, especially if you’re trying to desperately to make a mark for yourself in the literary fraternity) and I had absolutely no doubt of her prowess in the written word. I simply told myself to re-calibrate my expectations, because there is nothing more disappointing than a wordless book and a malnourished reader.
So, I got going. I hardly understood the first few pages, I wasn’t used to reading that style or genre, so everything seemed to blur out for me. I was expecting Shakespearean English (so much for re-calibrating my expectations) but I was seeing phrases that were far too simple and understandable. The names of the characters were relatable, yet distinct in their own way. It took me a while to get used to the names and the concentric plot that revolved around them. Shadrack, the young, yet senile war recluse is the first point of imagery that hits you and while you’re still trying to work the plot through your head, you breeze through the next few pages in earnest anticipation of Sula, the protagonist. She finally arrives. I had envisioned her as a fiery, brash and rebellious girl and Ms. Morrison’s version of her didn’t disappoint me in the slightest. She was the embodiment of the dark traveller within everyone, but something most people preferred to keep inconspicuous, far from being meek and demure. She was assertive, cocky and had a brazen temperament about her. I was abashed at her ballsy attitude and paradoxically, revered her for the same. Nel, her friend was the subdued kind, whose innate characteristics were heightened by Sula’s presence around her. With Sula having gone for a considerable number of years, The Bottom seemed to have been at peace. However, upon her reappearance, it is rumoured that she is the incarnation of evil by itself. With her reckless and ‘devious’ ways, the village by itself undergoes a social reform for the better. But, what happens to Sula and Nel? The plot may either be all too familiar to you or you may want to read it, so I don’t want to be the bearer of spoilers.
However, my version of Sula is that, she is the revolutionary American who envisioned and lived the life of her dreams. She was that something that was unparalleled and never even conceivable in the period in which the book is set in. She was the kind whose free-spirited self was unbridled by traditional conventions. Yes, nobody likes sad endings (I know I promised no spoilers, but sorry!), but that hit the raw nerve that brought out an all-new impulsive woman and redefined the very portrayal of the then modern woman. It hit me hard in the head and asked me, “Where is this woman today?”. The ultimate take-home message is that Sula resides in every one of us, in different forms- some dormant, some active. The tender emotion one experiences when they finally finish reading the book leaves them with a literary after-taste. Everything I had criticized when I started reading the novel, came back to bite me in the end and left me with a lingering sense of melancholy.
Here’s to you, Sula, the craziest woman of our age!