Susan Neal Mayberry and Sula Essay
After reading Something Other Than a Family Quarrel: The Beautiful Boys In Morrison’s Sula by Susan Neal Mayberry, the main point that she discusses is the male identity in the story, Sula by Toni Morrison. Throughout the Mayberry’s essay she addresses different aspects in Sula that contribute to the male identity in the story. She also talks about the roles that the men play in the story. In Mayberry’s essay she talks about three male characters: Jude, Ajax, and Shadrack. Each of these characters represents something different, but they are all considered to be damaged.
Jude represents racial conflict with white people. He envies white people according to Mayberry, but he also resents them as well. Due to that, the community rejects him. Besides him having a racial conflict with white people, he is specifically portrayed to be an underdeveloped and immature man. Mayberry writes, “Jude is simply not whole enough to be a real partner for anyone. He has not integrated the masculine and feminine parts of himself and so remains a boy. ” Mayberry defines Jude’s character to be an immature man, but as a result of inner conflicts he is characterized to be a damaged man.
Jude is not the only character to be considered damaged by Mayberry, she also considers Ajax to be damaged as well. According to Mayberry, Ajax represents a wondering spirit. Mayberry writes, “Ajax represents the African American version of the Ulysses theme in literature, the figure of the male in motion, the traveling man seeking not to obtain the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but simply to know what is at the end of the rainbow. ” Ajax is a very curious person. As a result of this he goes adventures and he experiences very unique things which to shape his identity.
Mayberry compares Ajax to Sula in that they are both curious and adventurous people. Based on Mayberry’s essay she does not attribute Ajax as being damaged because of his adventurous side, but she attributes him to be damaged because of his attachment to his mother. His mother has had a large influence on Ajax’s personality. The reason why Ajax is so kind to women is because he kind to his mother. His mother has implemented characteristics like thoughtfulness and generosity. Ajax treats women like he treats his mom.
The third male character is characterized by Mayberry to be damaged is Shadrack. Shadrack is considered to be damaged because of his insanity. Being a veteran from World War I, he has developed an unstable mind. For example, he started the national suicide day. In Sula he is not rejected by the community, they accept him for what he is. In the real world he would be rejected and looked down upon because of his insanity. Mayberry uses a quote from Sula to back up the point that Shadrack is accepted within the community.
She writes, “The inhabitants of the Bottom ‘knew Shadrack was crazy but that did not mean that he didn’t have any sense or, even more important, that he had no power. ’ Although men are not the main characters of the story, they do play in an important role in the story. According to Mayberry, the men balance out the women. She writes this because she finds that with female character there is a male character similar to them. Mayberry says, “Morrison consistently refuses to elevate female above male or male above female. ” What Mayberry is saying here is that there is a constant balance between both genders.
This is consistent throughout the entire story. Mayberry wants to the reader to think that androgyny is the solution to the damaged characters of the story. Having androgyny, meaning the balance between masculine and feminine qualities in a person, will result in maturity in a person. From a personality standpoint, if some has androgyny they do not have a specific gender. Only biologically will someone be able to determine one’s gender. Mayberry wants the reader to understand that there is no other solution to the damaged people in Sula.
Mayberry’s analysis of Sula does not seem to be easily agreeable. For example, her wanting the reader to believe that androgyny is the only solution to fixing the damaged people in Sula. For one, the characters in Sula are not damaged they are unique and they add excitement to the story. Each character, made by Morrison is specifically created to add variety to the story. Basically, if one were to take Mayberry’s analysis and compare it to the real world; replacing the characters of Sula with the people of the world then everybody is damaged according to Mayberry.
After having read Mayberry’s analysis, it seems she want to have a story where every character is exactly the same, and if they show a sign of variance then they are considered to be damaged by Mayberry’s standards. According to Mayberry men are the most damaged characters in the story but they are not center stage. Mayberry’s analysis of the Sula is one that is very unique and despite her confusing and somewhat unorganized she does get her point across.