As a result, Hannah has "no experiential knowledge or maternal role model for this aspect of the mother-daughter bond" (233). Hannah is more concerned with being who she wants to be than being a loving, nurturing mother.
Eva is the grandmother from which these characteristics flow. She is the woman that is tough because she must be. She makes sacrifices for her children but she does not necessarily bend to the social codes that most women in her era do. Ray's evaluation of the generational tendency of inversion supports the notion that men are not necessarily helpful to women and, in some circumstances, are harmful. Ray states that Sula acquires the "realization that her mother and grandmother have not been supported by loving, caring husbands; rather they have had to fend for themselves and their children. Morrison here instead of sentimentalizing the Black Woman's role as mother tries to probe into its complexities and shows how difficult it is for a black woman to survive in her role as a mother. Eva's struggle is a case in point" (Ray 51). Eva is another woman that has difficulty adjusting to the typical maternal role. She is a tough woman that understands the difficulties of life. She knows what it takes to sacrifice for her family but there is a side of her that is hardened by the experiences of life. Ray notes that Eva is the "matriarch; but she takes up this position not out of her own will but because of being abandoned by her husband" (Ray 51). Brown-Guillory maintains that motherhood, for Eva, is "replete with sacrifice and horrific choices" (Brown-Guillory 235). She is forced into a situation of reversal but she adapts to it and does what she needs to do to survive. She is much like Sula in that she is strong-willed and will not let herself be disrespected. This can be seen when she argues with Sula. More than anything, these two women want to maintain their independence and be the individual they want to be without interference from someone else.
Sula is a novel that strives to reach beyond the traditional notions that are associated with women and the family. Sula is in many respects, a product of her environment because she comes from two generations of women that are anything but traditional. Eva is not the traditional grandmother by any means. While she does what she must for her family, she does so because she is forced to do so. She is forced to come up with ways to provide for her family on her own. She has no one on which she can fall back, so she does what she must -- even if it means handicapping herself for the rest of her life. Hannah, the product of Eva, is not the perfect mother for Sula in that she is distant and does not care to express love toward her daughter. The roles of thee three women are reversed, and as a result, demonstrate the strength of women in general. Morrison illustrates how important it is for women to search for their own sources of pleasure instead of submitting to any norms of society and certainly not by submitting to any man. Everything is turned upside down in this novel for the purpose of exploring the notion that traditional values are not as traditional as we think they are. Cheryl Wall sums it up when she states, Sula is more than a point-of-reference novel, in that it suggests a "first name for two of the dead daughters of the Days ("Peace") as well as a female centered family structure" (Wall 163). Sula is perceived as a novel of inversion because "Bottom is in the hills, the Peace women know no peace, and the (W)right women are wrong" (163). Through this inversion, we begin to understand the complexities of women and their need for individuality.
Brown-Guillory, Elizabeth. Women of Color. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1996.
Eckard, Paula Gallant. Maternal body and Voice in Toni Morrison, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Lee
Smith. Columbia: University of Missouri Press 2002.
Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Plume Books. 1973.
Ray, Mohit Kumar. Studies In Women Writers In English. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. 2005.