Eva Peace

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Toni Morrison (b. 1931) American novelist


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Is the protagonist's grandmother in Toni Morrison's novel Sula (1974). Her distinction is due to the claim that she purposely allowed her leg to be cut off by a train so that she could gain the pension that would provide financial support for her children. Desertion by her husband leaves Eva destitute and desperate, and after the loss of her leg, she retreats to her upstairs bedroom and directs the lives of her children, strays, and boarders. Eva is also a mythic character who is unchaste and unwilling to submit to anyone or any God, in opposition to her Christian namesake.

Although Eva is characterized in the narrative as enthralled by “manlove”, he demonstrates a contemptuous attitude toward men in her naming. She sets fire to her son Ralph, whom she called Plum, when he returns from war with a heroin addiction and attempts to “crawl back into her womb”.She takes in an alcoholic white man and calls him Tar Baby and three homeless boys and calls them all Dewey. After Eva burns her son, she is unable to save her second daughter, Hannah Peace (Sula's mother), from burning to death.

The community apparently tolerates Eva's idiosyncrasies, but she is challenged and defeated by her equally strong-willed granddaughter, Sula Peace, who puts her in an old folks’ home. Eva, however, gets the last word in the novel, pointing out after Sula's death the similarity between Sula and her former best friend Nel in spite of their deceptive surface differences. Morrison quickly dispatches the assumption that Eva will fall into the traditional “mammy”role, for Eva is a willful, arrogant, independent woman whose strength is based on her sustained hatred for the unfaithful father of her three children.

Barbara Christian, Black Feminist Criticism, 1985.Wilfred D. Samuels and Clenora Hudson-Weems, Toni Morrison, 1990.Trudier Harris, Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison, 1991.Rachel Lee, “Missing Peace in Toni Morrison's Sula and Beloved”, African American Review 28.4 (Winter 1994): 571–583.

Betty Taylor-Thompson

Subjects: Literature.

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