Sula

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One of the most enigmatic characters in Sula, Ajax is a young, energetic resident of the Bottom, who seems to be a brutish, sexist man, but also proves to have a sensitive, mysterious side. It is Ajax who catcalls to Nel Wright and Sula Peace when they’re still young girls, and years later, Ajax begins an affair with Sula. We learn that Ajax is unique in the Bottom, because his mother was a mysterious, theatrical woman who practiced witchcraft: as a result, Ajax has always been good at talking to women, and shows genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings. While these qualities attract Sula to Ajax at first, it’s strongly implied that their relationship ends when Ajax gives in to his desire for independence, and leaves the Bottom.

Ajax Quotes in Sula

The Sula quotes below are all either spoken by Ajax or refer to Ajax . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage International edition of Sula published in 2004.
1939 Quotes

She lay down again on the bed and sang a little wandering tune made up of the words I have sung all the songs all the songs I have sung all the songs there are until, touched by her own lullaby, she grew drowsy, and in the hollow of near-sleep she tasted the acridness of gold, felt the chill of alabaster and smelled the dark, sweet stench of loam.

Related Characters: Sula Peace , Ajax
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Sula has a strange sexual experience with Ajax, a handsome man whom she befriends after she's left the Bottom altogether. Sula makes love to Ajax and then falls asleep next to him. Unlike most of her sexual partners, Ajax inspires a feeling of levity and excitement in Sula--she imagines Ajax as a being made of gold and loam (rich, fertile soil).

It's important to note that the passage doesn't name Ajax at all--Sula thinks of Ajax as something more basic and elemental than a sexual partner; he's practically a force of nature. In fact, the passage is so abstract that it's difficult to tell what, exactly is going on. Sula seems to embody a feminine sense of youth and vitality, and yet the language of the passage also points to Sula as a penetrating, masculine presence--boring through Ajax (who is portrayed in the traditionally feminine terms of a passive, fertile soil) until she reaches his "dark, sweet" center. Morrison reminds us of Sula's androgynous nature (remember her birthmark). She also suggests that, contrary to what the sexist people of the Bottom believe, Sula is capable of feeling a deep romantic bond with her partners.

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Ajax Character Timeline in Sula

The timeline below shows where the character Ajax appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1922
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
...their hats, while others open and close their thighs. One 21-year-old man, whose name is Ajax, watches Sula and Nel and says, “Pig meat.” Sula and Nel are secretly delighted to... (full context)
1927
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
In the months leading up to his marriage, Jude thinks about what Ajax had told him at the Pool Hall: all women want to die for their men.... (full context)
1939
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sula then comes back to Medallion and immediately makes the acquaintance of Ajax, the same man who called her “pig meat” 17 years before. Ajax is now 38,... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The narrator continues describing Ajax. He loves only two things in the world: his mother and airplanes. Ajax takes long... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Eventually, Sula does decide to sleep with Ajax. She’s been charmed by his gifts, but the real reason that she sleeps with him... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
Once, while Sula and Ajax are having sex, Sula imagines that Ajax is made out of gold. Beneath the gold,... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
One afternoon, Sula and Ajax meet, and Ajax mentions the disappearance of Tar Baby. Tar Baby has been arrested for... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
In Ajax’s absence, Sula tries to find more information about Ajax. She finds a copy of his... (full context)
1941
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
...fall into the water and die: the deweys, Tar Baby, Dessie, Valentine, and some of Ajax’s brothers. Only a few of Shadrack’s followers survive. Shadrack himself stands in the cold January... (full context)