Study Guide

Sula 1927

By Toni Morrison


  • We find ourselves at Nel's wedding. Everyone is dancing and a little drunk since "Somebody [...] had poured a whole pint of cane liquor into the punch" (1927.1). It seems that "Even Helene Wright had mellowed with the cane" (1927.1), so much so that she doesn't care about food on the furniture or kids messing with the curtains.
  • Nel's new husband is Jude Greene, and he's quite the catch. Before marrying Nel, he works as a waiter, but he prefers hard, manual work with more lasting results. "His arms ached for something heavier than trays, for something dirtier than peelings" (1927.6). We learn a lot about Jude's character through his work ethic.
  • Jude also begins to think about marriage, and he talks to Nel about it. She's open to marrying him, but she doesn't seem in any real hurry (which Jude likes about her).
  • At first marriage is just an idea, but as Jude keeps getting passed over in favor of white workers, he develops a "determination to take on a man's role" (1927.7), which translates into his determination to marry Nel.
  • He wants someone who will take care of him and "shore him up" (1927.8) when he's hurting. "And in return he [will] shelter her, love her, grow old with her" (1927.9). When Nel realizes how hurt Jude is at not getting work, she decides to marry him, "to help, to soothe" (1927.9).
  • Ever the best friend, Sula is as happy about the wedding as Nel is. She feels no jealousy and instead "seem[s] always to want Nel to shine" (1927.10).
  • As the reception draws to a close, Nel and Jude dance among the guests, eager to hightail it to their room to consummate the marriage. While they are dancing, Nel sees Sula leaving the house.
  • Even though Sula is walking away from her, Nel can somehow see a smile on her face. We learn that Sula and Nel don't see each other for ten years after this, "and their meeting would be thick with birds" (1927.15). We're not sure quite what this means, but it sounds pretty intense.