Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Water is often associated with death in the novel. For Sula (and Nel, to a lesser degree), it represents Chicken's horrible drowning. Fire might be a cleansing force, but water engulfs and consumes the young boy. Water doesn't comfort Sula but rather agitates and upsets her because of her responsibility for Chicken's death. At the end of the novel, one of the townspeople who die in the tunnel slides and hits the ice below.