Sula

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The oldest child of Eva Peace, Hannah Peace is an important influence on her daughter, Sula Peace. After the death of her husband, Rekus, Hannah has many suitors, and often has sex with them while Sula is in the house. While Hannah is a devoted mother, she seems not to feel any love for her daughter—a fact that Sula quickly becomes aware of. Hannah struggles to understand her mother, Eva, and after Eva kills Plum in his sleep, it’s suggested that their relationship never recovers. Hannah dies under mysterious circumstances that Morrison never fully explains: she’s burned alive as Sula watches. Her unusual behavior and sexual promiscuity make a lasting impression on Sula.

Hannah Peace Quotes in Sula

The Sula quotes below are all either spoken by Hannah Peace or refer to Hannah Peace . 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.
1923 Quotes

“There wasn't space for him in my womb. And he was crawlin' back. Being helpless and thinking baby thoughts and dreaming baby dreams and messing up his pants again and smiling all the time. I had room enough in my heart, but not in my womb, not no more. I birthed him once. I couldn't do it again. He was growed, a big old thing. Godhavemercy, I couldn't birth him twice.”

Related Characters: Eva Peace (speaker), Hannah Peace , Ralph / Plum Peace
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Eva Peace tries to explain to Hannah why she killed Plum, her favorite son. Eva insists that she continued to feel responsible for Plum, even after Plum became an adult. She felt that after the war, Plum was regressing as a human being—addicted to heroine, he was becoming a child once again. As a mother, Eva felt a strange instinct to treat him like a child again—in a way, to “give birth” to him again. And yet, of course, Eva couldn’t do this—so instead, she burned him to death, giving him the symbolic, fiery “birth” of ascending to Heaven.

It’s possible to consider Eva’s explanation deeply sympathetic and yet wholly unconvincing. Eva is clearly a loving mother, and considers Plum her most beloved child. And yet perhaps she’s too overbearing in her relationship with Plum—her emotional connection with Plum is so intense that she can’t bear the slightest tragedies in his life, let alone the tragedy of his heroine addiction and depression. In short, Eva loves Ralph too much, and in a way, burning Ralph is a suicide, not a murder—Eva is killing a huge part of herself, and she never recovers emotionally.

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1939 Quotes

When the word got out about Eva being put in Sunnydale, the people in the Bottom shook their heads and said Sula was a roach. Later, when they saw how she took Jude, then ditched him for others, and heard how he bought a bus ticket to Detroit (where he bought but never mailed birthday cards to his sons), they forgot all about Hannah's easy ways (or their own) and said she was a bitch. Everybody remembered the plague of robins that announced her return, and the tale about her watching Hannah burn was stirred up again…

Related Characters: Sula Peace , Eva Peace , Hannah Peace , Jude Greene
Related Symbols: The Plague of Robins
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, as in other passages of the novel, the people of the Bottom become like a single, unitary character. Over the years, Sula acquires a reputation for being a “bitch” and an untrustworthy, devious woman. She sends Eva Peace, her own grandmother, into a nursing home, despite the fact that Eva has been a caretaker to hundreds of children. The townspeople also condemn Sula for sleeping with Jude, Nel’s husband.

Notice the sexism of the townspeople’s comments, however. They condemn Sula for “breaking up the marriage,” but seem not to dislike Jude for cheating on his wife. By the same token, the townspeople seem more interested in attacking women’s reputations than in consistency—they criticize Hannah for being "easy," then criticize Sula for watching her death. Perhaps most tellingly, the townspeople re-interpret an ambiguous sign (the "plague of robins") to rationalize their ideas about Sula. Where before the robins seemed innocent to many, they’re now retroactively made to foreshadow Sula’s wickedness. The point isn’t that Sula is a heroin and the townspeople are wicked; the point is that the townspeople, whether or not they’re right to condemn Sula, traffic in self-righteous stereotypes about women—sexism disguised as morality.

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Hannah Peace Character Timeline in Sula

The timeline below shows where the character Hannah Peace appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1920
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...feels comfortable around Sula, and even prefers Sula’s dirty house to her own. Sula’s mother, Hannah, is a woman unlike Helene—she never scolds or yells. Sula also lives with her grandmother—a... (full context)
1921
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...the neighborhood. Everyone knows that she married a man named BoyBoy, and had three children: Hannah, Eva, nicknamed Pearl, and Ralph, nicknamed Plum. BoyBoy was an abusive husband—he drank too much,... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...fourteen and moved to Michigan—she had a quiet marriage, full of small moments of unhappiness. Hannah married a man named Rekus who died when Sula, their child, was three. Strangely—considering how... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Eva’s daughter, Hannah, “ripples with sex.” After her husband Rekus dies, she has many admirers. Hannah is an... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
A short time later, Eva hears the shouts of Hannah and “some child” coming from outside her room. Hannah rushes to Eva’s door, screaming that... (full context)
1922
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...to go to the river in the afternoon. As she leaves, she hears two of Hannah’s friends, Patsy and Valentine, talking about how they made the mistake of having their children... (full context)
1923
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
In 1923, Hannah Peace walks into her mother’s room with an empty bowl and a pile of beans,... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
We switch from Eva’s perspective to Hannah’s. Hannah has filled her bowl with beans. Now, she takes the bowl and asks Eva... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
After a long period of silence, Eva replies to Hannah’s question. She says, “He give me such a time. Such a time.” Eva explains that... (full context)
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
Before Hannah’s strange conversation with her mother, another strange thing had happened. The night before their conversation,... (full context)
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
...day that she loses her comb, Eva goes to her window and sees her daughter, Hannah, burning. She is standing outside, and her dress is on fire. Eva immediately rushes, in... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
A group stands around Hannah as she lies on the ground, screaming in pain. Hannah then whispers, “Help me, y’all.”... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
Eva lies in her hospital bed, trying to understand what has happened. She remembers Hannah’s dream of a wedding, and notes that weddings always mean death to her. The red... (full context)
1937
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
Sula continues telling Nel about Eva’s family situation. After Plum and Hannah died, Eva collected large amounts of life insurance, some of which paid for Sula’s college... (full context)