Sula “Opposites Attract”

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There is a saying that states, “Opposites attract”. This statement is quite true and there are many examples proving its validness.  The book Sula is an excellent example. The book talks about a story of two young African American girls, Sula and Nel, that grew up together in the 1920s and 1930s. They were opposites from the start, and yet they were the best of friends, thus proving the statement that “opposites attract”. In order to fully understand this relationship, one must know the ingredients that made them best friends. Doing so requires the study of the differences and similarities of each individual. The differences in family and personality were examples of differences between the two girls. There also were some similarities that Sula and Nel shared, such as interests and hobbies. The combinations of differences and similarities were what bonded the two girls together.

Family has been and always will be indispensable to a person’s life. It can shape one into the person who he or she would grow up to be. In this story, family was an important factor in their difference. In Sula’s family, her father, Rekus, died; but Sula’s mother, Hannah, never stopped sleeping men. “Hannah simply refused to live without the attentions of a man…” Sula grew up thinking it was okay and unremarkable to sleep with men, therefore making her just the same as her mother. What I have come to realize, was that ideas learned from a young age were also ideas that one would most likely grow up living by. When Sula saw from her mother that making love with men was natural and unremarkable, she was led to believe so, therefore growing up this way. Nel, on the other hand, grew up with a proper, lady-like mother. Her name was Helene, and she was a woman of properness and strict order. Therefore, Nel grew up under this parenting, and that was how she acted. As an adult, Nel was married and never cheated on her husband, Jude. Due to this difference in family life, they were attracted together as friends, fulfilling the statement, “Opposites attract”.

There was also a personality difference between the two girls. Sula had always been the rougher, tougher one, as opposed to the quieter Nel. Sula would be inconsistent in emotions and find it a hard to maintain a steady emotion for an extended time period. Nel, on the other hand, although quieter, had been steady in emotions. Nel and Sula were opposites, Sula being the more outgoing individual. Another point about personality was that since the two girls were opposite, they had each other for support. In other words, with opposing personalities, they were each second halves of the other, making them inseparable. Sula would be the one that took action, this allowing her to become the ‘protector’ of the two. For example, in 1922, four Irish white boys that “occasionally entertained themselves in the afternoon by harassing black schoolchildren” confronted Nel. Nel was shoved around until the boys were bored with her helpless face. As a result, her route home from school changed and was designed to avoid the area. This went on until Sula propose they walk the regular way once again. The boys advanced to their ‘prey’, and blocked the gate on the path. Sula put down all her things, walked up the boys, took out a knife, and sliced the tip of her finger off. She told the boys, “If I can do that to myself, what you suppose I’ll do to you?” As a result, the way was cleared pretty fast.

Although there are many differences, Sula and Nel’s relationship, much like any other, does have some similarities between them. In most relationships, there is always a base similarity that helps the bonding of individuals. Sula and Nel’s relationship was no exception. They both had similar interests and qualities. For example, in their teenage years, they both had the interest in men. They would walk down to the ice cream shop to be watched by the neighborhood males. A quote from the book that described the men was, “Every passerby, every motorcar, every alteration instance caught their attention and was commented on. Particularly they watched women.” But men weren’t the only similarity between the two. They both were adventuresome. The two girls would explore anything that proved of interest to them, the items ranging from chicken fights to gold teeth. They watched the days run by like a movie with amusement. Sula and Nel also sometimes shared emotions. For example, Sula accidentally drowned a boy named Chicken Little, and during the funeral, Nel, “…knew she had ‘done nothing,’ she felt convicted and hanged right there in the pew…” This showed the point that Sula and Nel had many differences, at the same, had some similarities to bond them together as best friends.

In conclusion, the book Sula definitely reflects the statement, “opposites attract”. Although the story took place in 1920-1930s, this perspective of relationships is still commonly believed. The differences in family and personality were examples of differences between the two girls. There also were some similarities that Sula and Nel shared, such as interests and hobbies. The combinations of differences and similarities are what bind not only the two girls together, but us as well.


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