114th Annual Conference - Pasadena, California
Friday, November 11 - Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Psychoanalyic Approach to Sula: Understanding Sula's Sexual Desires 

D'Angelo Bridges, California State University, San Bernardino
Denisha Harris, California State University, San Bernardino

Toni Morrison’s Sula remains a common piece of African American literature, and many scholars have done extensive research on Sula’s character as having a “lack of foundation, a structurelessness that affects every thought, every action and every interaction” she has (Galehouse 341). Ultimately, we posit that Sula establishes for readers a thwarted sense of the Electra complex.  In order for her to fulfill her sexual desires, she has to direct her sexual desires to her friends’ husbands.

Proposal: 

Toni Morrison’s Sula remains a common piece of African American literature, and many scholars have done extensive research on Sula’s character as having a “lack of foundation, a structurelessness that affects every thought, every action and every interaction” she has (Galehouse 341).  However, when we approach this text from a psychoanalytical perspective, it reveals layers of meaning that would have otherwise been left on researched.  In this paper, I utilize Carl Jung’s extension of Freud’s Oedipus complex to understand Sula’s character.  Sula is a character who’s emotionally conflicted.  Sula fits Jung’s Electra complex in many ways.  I argue, however, that Morrison presents a character who displays a thwarted Electra complex.  She is a character that grow up with no father, which translates to her sexual desires being frustrated.  By not being able to successfully place her sexual desires on father, she begins to place them on her friends’ husbands.  The Electra complex becomes even more interesting here because she “eliminates” her mother by watching her die without doing anything about it. Ultimately, I posit that Sula establishes for readers a thwarted sense of the Electra complex.  In order for her to fulfill her sexual desires, she has to direct her sexual desires to her friends’ husbands.