In clear, dark, resonant language, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people. Unabridged. 5 CDs.
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In the foreword Morrison shares the social and political context in which the novel is written.
The "problem" Morrison is referring to in this text is
In this paragraph Morrison explains her rationale for the opening of her novel. What issues does she address in the opening?
What is happening to the Bottom?
The word "nigger" was used as early as the 17th century to refer to a black person. The term has long had offensive connotations. In what way is the narrator using the term?
Calling the black people's town the Bottom is ironic because
In this sentence the narrator uses a(n) __________ to describe Shadrack's perception of his hands.
Shadrack suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences in the war. His perception of his hands is a result of his mental condition.
The hospital staff releases Shadrack because
An emerging theme in the novel is
You will notice that chapter titles are dates. The story of "Sula" is a frame narrative, a literary technique in which secondary stories are woven into the main story. Other characters will be introduced in the next chapters.
The word "Creole" here refers to someone of African American, Caucasian, and French ancestry residing in Louisiana. Below is a picture of Beyonce who is a Creole of Lousiana French heritage. (This annotation contains an image)
In this text Helene is described as
What emotions does the white conductor's use of the word "gal" evoke in Helene?
The incident with the conductor is a defining moment for Nel. How does her perception of her mother change?
The reader can infer that
Helene's mother is a prostitute. Think about what this comment reveals about Helene's feelings towards her mother.
Nel's experiences to and from New Orleans help her develop
Eva is the matriarch of the family. What do the words "creator and sovereign" tell the reader about her?
Eva is characterized here as someone who
The family does not have indoor plumbing. The slop jar is a container used for urinating or defecating when it is not possible or convenient to use a bathroom or toilet. Below is a picture of a slop jar similar to the one Eva knocked over. (This annotation contains an image)
Boyboy's abandonment of Eva and his children shows
After BoyBoy leaves, Eva realizes she ___________ him.
People's inability to distinguish one dewey from another introduces the theme of
Eva calls Pretty Johnnie Tar Baby. This is an example of verbal irony. View the video below to gain a better understanding of verbal irony. (This annotation contains a video)
The narrator tells the reader that Eva and her daughters loved all men. As you continue reading, think about how their manlove influences their relationships with both the men and women in their lives.
In this sentence, exasperated means
Earlier we were told that Eva bequeathed her love of men to her daughters. What does she want to bequeath to her son?
As Eva leaves Plum's room, she
Camels were a popular brand of cigarettes during this period. Below is an advertisement for Camels endorsed by professional baseball player Hank Aaron. (This annotation contains an image)
The walk to the ice cream shop reveals changes in Sula and Nel. What do you learn about these changes from the reactions of the men?
Morrison uses the simile in this sentence to
African Americans are not the only ethnic group that has experienced racism. Note how the white people of Medallion treat the Irish and how the Irish treat the Negroes.
Mrs. Wright wants Nel to pull her nose so it will appear narrower. Mrs. Wright thinks this will make Nel look more attractive.
At age twelve, Nel and Sula are interested in
In the early 1900's boys wore knickers, pants that had elastic at the knees. Younger boys wore their knickers above the knee; older boys wore them below the knee. The picture below shows a boy in knickers similar to those Chicken Little would have worn. (This annotation contains a link)
When Sula releases Chicken Little's hands, he
In this sentence the bargeman makes an allusion, or reference, to the biblical story of Ham in Genesis 9: 18-29. This story is sometimes used to justify slavery.
Why does Nel feel guilty if she has "done nothing?"
Kentucky Wonders are a hanging variety of green bean. You break off the ends and snap them in half before cooking them. (This annotation contains an image)
The tone Eva uses here is
The picture below shows an iceman with his horse and wagon. Before people had freezers, they bought ice to keep their food from spoiling. The ice man delivered blocks of ice to their door. Straw helped to keep the ice from melting. (This annotation contains an image)
Eva kills Plum because
Eva recalls signs or omens that should have warned her that Hannah was in danger. What are the omens?
Eva thinks Hannah's death is judgment against her for
Helene's decision to give her daughter a real wedding sets her apart from the people of the Bottom. The picture below shows how Nel and Jude may have looked on their wedding day. (This annotation contains an image)
During this period, racism was rampant. African Americans had a difficult job getting good jobs. The best paying jobs were reserved for whites.
Jude asks Nel to marry him because
Nel loses her ____________ when she marries Jude.
Birds are mentioned often in this novel. They are a symbol. The video below will help you understand how symbols are used. (This annotation contains a video)
The birds are a symbol of
What might this sentence foreshadow?
The highlighted text is Proverbs 16:18. Eva responds to Sula's retorts with religious references. "Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton.
Nel thinks Sula's return is the cause of _________ events.
Sula helps Nel define herself. Nel's mother attempts to strip Nel of her identity. Nel finds her sense of self In her friendship with Sula.
You may have noticed that in their conversation, Nel and Sula sometimes omit words or parts of words and use a singular verb rather than a plural verb after the pronoun "we." They are speaking in a black dialect. A dialect is language used by the people of a specific area, class, district or any other group of people. The term dialect involves the spelling, sounds, grammar and pronunciation used by a particular group of people and it distinguishes them from other people around them.
Sula has been away from Medallion for ________ years.
Think about Sula and Nel's past relationship. What point is Sula trying to make in this sentence?
Nel is upset to discover what Sula has done. In the black community it was unacceptable to send a family member to a nursing home.
Sula tells Nel she put Eva in a home because
Nel knows her husband has not had a good day because
Jude is referring to Sula's birthmark. A copperhead is a venomous snake with coppery-pink or reddish-brown coloration. Look at the picture of the copperhead snake below and try to picture Sula's birthmark. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Nel compare Jude's eyes to those of the soldiers on the train? Think about the message Jude and the soldiers convey.
Nel walks in on Jude and Sula
Nel's betrayal by Jude and Sula brings back the memory of Chicken Little's funeral. This reference foreshadows the ongoing significance of Chicken Little's death.
This sentence uses _________ to symbolize Nel's grief.
By the end of the summer, Nel realizes that
Sula's neighbors are attempting to conjure, or use supernatural powers, to protect themselves from Sula.
According to the people of the Bottom, what is the meaning of the birthmark over Sula's eye?
What is the significance of Della's story?
The narrator mentions two specific incidents that shape Sula's character - her mother's comment to a friend that she loved Sula but did not like her and the death of Chicken Little. Why do you think these events make her different?
What theme does this sentence support?
Sula evaluates her relationship with Nel after her affair with Jude. What doe she come to understand about the marriage relationship?
Sula has numerous sexual encounters with men but does not find what she is seeking. What is she trying to find?
In this sentence, pariah means
Ajax brings Sula two quarts of milk. Milk was delivered to customers in glass bottles. Ajax knows that Sula likes bottles. Below is a picture of some milk bottles from the 1930's. The bottle he gave Sula may have looked like one of these. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Ajax love Sula?
This is a reference to Charles Lindberg, an American aviator who made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20-21, 1927.
The green ribbon Sula wears represents
The police arrest Tar Baby for
Sula's comment reminds the reader of Ajax's comment to Jude about women and marriage. What might Ajax's reaction foreshadow?
Sula finds Ajax's _________ in a dresser draw.
Nel is going to see Sula after three years. This will be their first meeting since Nel caught Sula with Jude. Why do you think Nel calls Sula's birthmark a "stemmed rose"?
Nel has a job as a
What memory is Sula recalling when she refers to "the closed place in the water"? How does that memory connect her and Nel?
Sula equates being a man with
As Sula and Nel argue, Sula states that every man she ever knew left his children. When Nel counters by saying some are taken, Sula says, "The word is 'left.'" What point is Sula trying to make?
How is Nel's "lonely" a "secondhand lonely"?
These are the names of people who were famous during this time period.
Sula's dream about the Clabber Girl Baking Powder lady foreshadows
Sula's death, ironically, brings the people of the Bottom together. They bond in their hatred of her.
The folks in the Bottom are _________ about Sula's death.
How do people change after Sula's death?
The girl Shadrack remembers is
Events in the novel are coming full circle. Shadrack is recalling the day Sula comes to his door, the day Chicken Little drowns.
To which day does this sentence refer?
Scarlet fever was once a very serious childhood disease which is now easily treatable. It is caused by the streptococcal bacteria, which produce a toxin that leads a red rash, the characteristic mark of the illness. It would have spread easily throughout the community.
This National Suicide Day is different because
This final chapter of the novel introduces modern changes and their effect on the blacks and whites of Medallion.
This section of the narrative takes place
How is life different in the Bottom?
In her preface to the novel, Morrison discusses the importance of the opening of the novel and the context in which the novel is written. Do you think Eva's name has significance?
The little boy Miss Peace is referring to is
Eva's observation reminds the reader that Nel and Sula were once inseparable; they completed each other.
The words you watched in this sentence imply that
Eva's remarks force Nel to examine herself. What does she realize about Chicken Little's death?
The townspeople react to the news of Sula's death with
Nel's cry expresses her