Study Guide

Sula Plot Analysis

By Toni Morrison

Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

Sula and Nel become friends

The friendship between the two girls launches the rest of the events in the novel.

Conflict

Sula sleeps with Nel's husband, Jude

Although other important events occur in their lives, this moments triggers the break in Sula and Nel's relationship, separating them for many years.

Complication

Sula fails to understand why her affair with Jude is wrong

Sula's guilt isn't clear-cut, since she can't understand feelings of jealousy associated with marriage. She simply remembers how things were with Nel—they shared everything as kids. Why not share Jude?

Climax

Nel finally confronts Sula

This is the moment we've been waiting for: Nel finally vents her anger and pain and asks for an explanation from Sula.

Suspense

Sula's explanation of the affair

We, along with Nel, have been waiting to find out why Sula did what she did. But she fails to give a satisfactory answer.

Denouement

Sula dies

This would seem to be the conclusion, but Sula's death represents a winding down of the story, not an end to it. There's still important stuff to come.

Conclusion

Nel finally cries for Sula

This is sort of a conclusion, but an uncertain one. We learn that Nel's cries can't be contained; they have no beginning and no end, so the conclusion is open to interpretation. It could be that Nel finally finds peace by grieving for Sula, or it could be that a whole new type of pain has just been unleashed.