Sula

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The deweys Character Analysis

A group of boys who are given the same name by Eva Peace when they’re born: “Dewey.” Over time, the deweys (always lowercase!) remain a tight-knit group, to the point where they refuse to do anything alone. Despite the fact that the deweys are all different ages, they’re treated as one unit by the people of the Bottom: the deweys are sent to school at the same time, and when one dewey is bad, they’re all punished equally. In a touch of magical realism, the deweys do not age physically. It’s as if their refusal to be individuals—only a group—means that they cannot develop and become adults. As a result, they’re children for the rest of their lives.

The deweys Quotes in Sula

The Sula quotes below are all either spoken by The deweys or refer to The deweys. 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.
1921 Quotes

Slowly each boy came out of whatever cocoon he was in at the time his mother or somebody gave him away, and accepted Eva's view, becoming in fact as well as in name a dewey—joining with the other two to become a trinity with a plural name... inseparable, loving nothing and no one but themselves. When the handle from the icebox fell off, all the deweys got whipped, and in dry-eyed silence watched their own feet as they turned their behinds high up into the air for the stroke.

Related Characters: Eva Peace, The deweys
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage—a good example of Morrison’s style of magical realism—we’re introduced to the deweys, a group of children. When they’re young, the children are all given the same name, Dewey. Over time, the name “Dewey” itself becomes a literal, powerful bond between the boys—they do everything together, simply because of their common name. Even when one of the Dewey children is punished, the other boys accept the punishment, too. Strangest of all, the deweys stop growing—after a certain point, they never get any bigger or taller. Morrison conveys the unity of the children by spelling their common name in the lowercase—“deweys,” not “Dewey.”

There are a couple of key points here. First, note that Morrison never presents the peculiar solidarity of the deweys as magical or supernatural, even though it seems to be—as in many works of “magical realism” (the literary style with which Morrison is often associated), supernatural events are presented as perfectly ordinary. Second, notice that the deweys lack any individual identity. Each dewey child is exactly the same—they’re even punished for the same crimes. Perhaps Morrison intends the deweys to be a symbol for the struggle for individualism in the black community. Persecuted by white America and brought up in poverty and misery, it’s easier for the deweys to be a group than for them to be individuals—they’re so frightened that they can't help losing their identities.

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The deweys Character Timeline in Sula

The timeline below shows where the character The deweys appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1921
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
...named Dewey, for instance, become friends with each other, and love “nobody but themselves.” The deweys (written in lowercase throughout the rest of the book) become a close-knit group: even though... (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
...her children. Eva has been sitting in her room, yelling at the group of rambunctious deweys outside her window. Eva asks Hannah to repeat her question. Hannah does so, and Eva... (full context)
1927
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
At the wedding party, a dance begins. The deweys—still one solid unit—dance together. Though they’re now adults, they’re only about four feet high—they’ve mastered... (full context)
1941
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
...has “friends”: people who actually want to join his informal celebration in the street. The deweys, Tar Baby, Valentine, and dozens of other people in the Bottom run out to dance... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
...edge of the cliff collapses. Dozens of people 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... (full context)
1965
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...constantly, using black labor. Some of the young people in the community look like the deweys (who died in 1941 in the bridge collapse). Nel, who still lives in Medallion, thinks... (full context)