Sula

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Jude Greene Character Analysis

A young, handsome resident of the Bottom, who dreams of spending his adulthood working on the famed New River Road, Jude is one of the strangest characters in Sula: although he seems like a kind, respectable man, he’s also capable of acts of callous cruelty that ruin the lives of people he claims to love. For ten years, Jude is a loving husband to his wife, Nel Wright, but when Sula Peace returns to the Bottom in 1937, Jude begins an affair with Sula almost immediately. Soon afterwards, Jude leaves the Bottom forever and goes to live in Detroit, where he’s never heard from again. His abrupt departure from his home throws Nel’s life into chaos.

Jude Greene Quotes in Sula

The Sula quotes below are all either spoken by Jude Greene or refer to Jude Greene . 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.
1927 Quotes

"I built that road," he could say. How much better sundown would be than the end of a day in the restaurant, where a good day's work was marked by the number of dirty plates and the weight of the garbage bin. "I built that road." People would walk over his sweat for years. Perhaps a sledge hammer would come crashing down on his foot, and when people asked him how come he limped, he could say, "Got that building the New Road."

Related Characters: Jude Greene (speaker)
Related Symbols: The New River Road
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jude—the new husband of Nel Wright—fantasizes about his future. Jude’s greatest aspiration is to build a road—specifically, the New River Road that is to link the Bottom to the surrounding community. For Jude, getting work building the New River Road is more than just a job—it’s a way of giving meaning and dignity to his life. Jude plans to measure every stage of his life—his youth, his middle-age, and even his painful old age, in which he can barely walk—in relationship to the road and his work.

Unbeknownst to Jude, however, the New River Road is a sham—a lie, designed by the white establishment to inspire false hope in young, ambitious black people like Jude. Jude is ambitious, but he’s too eager to define success in the terms the white community gives him. Because of such a flaw in his personality, Jude is ultimately a tragic character—a strong young man who becomes more cynical and more hopeless with each passing year.

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1937 Quotes

"But Jude," she would say, "you knew me. All those days and years, Jude, you knew me. My ways and my hands and how my stomach folded and how we tried to get Mickey to nurse and how about that time when the landlord said... but you said... and I cried, Jude. You knew me and had listened to the things I said in the night, and heard me in the bathroom and laughed at my raggedy girdle and I laughed too because I knew you too, Jude. So how could you leave me when you knew me?"

Related Characters: Nel Wright / Nel Wright Greene (speaker), Jude Greene
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

Nel Wright discovers that Jude has been having an affair with her best friend, Sula. Jude has been married to Nel for many years—they have children together, and consider each other close friends as well as lovers. As the quotation makes clear, Nel interprets Jude’s decision to leave her as an attack on Nel's very identity. If Jude knows Nel so completely, how could he abandon her? Only if he has decided that Nel isn’t worth knowing. The passage is a good example of how Morrison’s female characters internalize their own mistreatment—in other words, instead of blaming Jude for being an adulterer, Nel concludes that she is the problem, and essentially blames herself for her husband’s misdeeds.

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.

1965 Quotes

"All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude." And the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her throat. "We was girls together," she said as though explaining something. "O Lord, Sula," she cried, "girl, girl, girlgirlgirl." It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

Related Characters: Nel Wright / Nel Wright Greene (speaker), Sula Peace , Jude Greene
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final sentences of the novel, Nel comes to realize that her greatest friend and companion in life was always Sula, not Jude. For years, Nel has been telling herself that Sula is her enemy--Sula slept with Jude, Nel's husband, and broke up Nel's marriage in the process. And yet in spite of everything, Nel has never had a friend who knew her as well as Sula did. Nel's realization matches Sula's final words in the novel, "Wait'll I tell Nel," suggesting that in spite of their arguments and rivalries, the two continue to love each other and be bound by something stronger than all their differences.

In no small part, Nel and Sula have been pushed apart by the racism, sexism, and intolerance of their society. Nel has been content to live a docile, domestic life--Sula, on the other hand, has refused to live so passively. As a result, Sula has spent most of her life being free and experimental with her sexuality--a lifestyle that Nel was always unable to understand.

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Jude Greene Character Timeline in Sula

The timeline below shows where the character Jude Greene appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1927
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...wedding, and thus rare in the Bottom. The groom is a handsome, popular man named Jude Greene. He’s a singer in the choir, as well as a waiter. Jude wasn’t in... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The narrator continues to describe Jude Greene. Jude longs for a challenging physical job—he wants to work on the New River... (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
In the months leading up to his marriage, Jude thinks about what Ajax had told him at the Pool Hall: all women want to... (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
...continuing to think like children, and so they still look like children. Meanwhile, Nel and Jude think about making love that night—they’re both ready to go. Nel looks into Jude’s eyes... (full context)
1937
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
...situation. At this time, Nel has been married for a decade, and her love for Jude, her husband, has faded somewhat in that time. Yet whenever Sula visits Nel and Jude... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Before Sula and Nel can say anything more, Jude arrives—he’s home from work—and greets his young children. Jude looks exactly the same as he... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...saying “He left his tie.” As the passage begins, Nel is frantically trying to convince Jude to remain married to her. She reminds Jude that they’ve been married for ten years,... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The narrator reveals that Nel has caught Jude having sex with Sula one afternoon. When Nel catches them doing this, she sees Jude... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...her sadness, and her mind jumps to Sula—then she corrects herself: Sula is the woman Jude left her for. (full context)
1939
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
...neighborhood, and conclude that the robins were a bad omen. The townspeople also mention how Jude Greene has left Ohio and moved to Detroit, where he never sends letters to his... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
...Sula’s experiences during her ten years away from the Bottom (before returning and sleeping with Jude, etc.). Sula travels to Detroit, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Macon, and San Diego. She... (full context)
1940
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Nel, still standing over Sula, angrily brings up Jude. Sula laughs and claims that she never really cared about Jude—she tried to never care... (full context)
1965
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...life. Her three children are fully-grown now, and take up little of her time. After Jude left her, she tried to remarry, but nobody would take her, since she had three... (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
...she whispers, “Sula?” Nel then admits the truth: for years she’s believed that she misses Jude, but in reality, she’s been missing Sula, her oldest, best friend. Nel cries Sula’s name... (full context)