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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Friendship

Friendship is the central force in Sula. It sustains the characters and gets them through some of the most difficult times in their lives. But friendship is also complicated and difficult. It cause...

Loyalty

Loyalty takes many forms in Sula. We see how parents display loyalty to their children by doing whatever is necessary to ensure their survival. We see friends who remain loyal to each other even wh...

Betrayal

Betrayal rears its ugly head throughout Sula. It characterizes many of the relationships in the story and propels much of the action. And like loyalty, betrayal appears in different ways. There is...

Suffering

There is much suffering in Sula, which has much to say about the relationships between men and women, issues of race and gender, and the ways suffering might actually sustain a character. The women...

Pride

Pride is presented as both positive and destructive in Sula. The pride of some of the women characters, for example, is what makes them so strong and independent. But it also creates conflict when...

Compassion and Forgiveness

Sula ends with a message about how an inability or unwillingness to grant compassion and forgiveness can have a lasting effect on a person. Compassion and forgiveness aren't always easy to muster,...

Sex

The sex in Sula isn't just there for shock value. Attitudes toward sex give us vital clues about many of the characters in the novel and about what one generation passes on to another. Things can a...

Choices

The idea of choices in Sula has a lot to do with concepts of self-identity and self-determination. The characters who choose certain paths for themselves – who choose to pursue their desires...

Gender

Gender is one of those big themes that is a little difficult to nail down, in part because it often informs a text without being explicitly addressed. Of course, there are instances in Sula in whic...

Race

Like gender, race informs much of Sula, and we get subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that race determines much about a person's opportunities and access to basic needs. Many of the characters who...
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