Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Re-Reading Sula

I have gone back to my habit of reading a lot. The kids are older now and much more self-sufficient. Re-reading Sula was amazing to me. It is a short book, so I was able to finish it in a few hours.

Several scenes captured my attention at this reading, which I don’t remember much of from before.

Sula’s grandmother, Eva, actually burns her son to death because of his drug addiction. It is a frightening but real scene.

Later, she explains why to her daughter:

He give me such a time. Such a time. Look like he didn’t even want to be born. But he come on out. Boys is hard to bear. You wouldn’t know that but they is. It was such a carryin’ on to get him born and to keep him alive. Just to keep his little heart beating and his little old lungs cleared and look like when he came back from that war we wanted to git back in. After all that carryin’ on, just getting’ him out and keepin’ him alive, he wanted to crawl back in my womb and well…I ain’t got the room no more even if he could do it. There wasn’t space for him in my womb. And he was crawlin’ back. Being helpless and thinking baby thoughts and dreaming baby dreams and messing up his pants again and smiling all the time. I had room enough in my heart, but not in my womb, not no more. I birthed him once. I couldn’t do it again. He was growed, a big old thing. Godhavemercy, I couldn’t birth him twice. I’d be laying here at night and he be downstairs in that room, but when I closed my eyes, I’d see him…six feet tall smilin’ and crawlin’ up the stairs quietlike so I wouldn’t hear and opening the door soft so I wouldn’t hear and he’d be creepin’ to the bed trying to spread my legs trying to get back up in my womb. He was a man girl, a big old growed-up man. I didn’t have that much room. I kept on dreaming it. Dreaming it and I knowed it was true. One night it wouldn’t be no dream. It’d be true and I would have done it, would have let him if I’d’ve had the room but a big man can’t be a baby all wrapped up inside his mamma no more: he suffocate. I done everything I could to make him leave me and go on and live and be a man but he wouldn’t and I had to keep him out so I just thought of a way he could die like a man not all scrunched up inside my womb, but like a man.

Eva couldn’t see Hannah clearly for the tears, but she looked up at her anyway and said, by way of apology or explanation or perhaps just by the way of neatness, “But I held him close first. Real close. Sweet Plum. My baby boy."

Another thing that struck me is how Sula’s family is more like my mom’s side of the family and Nel’s is more like my dad’s – and how that has always seemed sort of polarizing. But near the end of the book, you realize how they were so similar and they really complimented each other. Sula’s grandmother tells Nell, “Just alike. Both of you. Never was no difference between you.” She even calls Nell Sula.

I really liked Sula’s question near the end when she asked her friend – “How do you know who was good. How do you know it was you? …I mean maybe it wasn’t you. Maybe it was me.”

Something else that really stung was a dialoge between the friends, after Nel confronts Sula for sleeping with her husband.

“I was good to you Sula, why don’t that matter?”…”It matters Nel, but only to you. Not to anybody else. Being good to somebody is just like being mean to somebody. Risky. You don’t get nothing for it.”

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