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The husband of Helene Sabat Wright, and the great-nephew of Cecile, Wiley Wright is barely present in Sula—a surprising fact, considering that he’s the father of one of the novel’s protagonists. Wiley is a cook on a ship, meaning that he’s often out of the house for long periods of time. Helene, with her desire for total control over her house and life, prefers to be married to a man with a busy schedule. After the second chapter of the novel, Wiley is barely mentioned again.

Wiley Wright Quotes in Sula

The Sula quotes below are all either spoken by Wiley Wright or refer to Wiley Wright. 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.

He was a seaman (or rather a lakeman, for he was a ship's cook on one of the Great Lakes lines), in port only three days out of every sixteen. He took his bride to his home in Medallion and put her in a lovely house with a brick porch and real lace curtains at the window. His long absences were quite bearable for Helene Wright, especially when, after some nine years of marriage, her daughter was born. Her daughter was more comfort and purpose than she had ever hoped to find in this life.

Related Characters: Nel Wright / Nel Wright Greene, Helene Sabat Wright, Wiley Wright
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, we meet Helene Wright and her husband, Wiley Wright. Helene marries Wiley when she's still a young woman, despite (or really, becauseof) the fact that Wiley is a sailor, and spends all his time sailing around the Great Lakes. Helene seems not to want much contact with a man--perhaps because she's had so much experience as a child with male aggression and sexuality (she was born in a brothel), or perhaps because she just prefers to be alone and independent. So it suits her fine to marry a man who's never home.

It's worth asking why Helene bothers to marry anyone--if she's disgusted with men, why bother? In the unstable, racist society of the 1920s, Helene knows that she needs a man to support and protect her; she also wants the approval and attention of her peers. In general, though, the passage makes it clear that we're going to be reading a novel about women, first and foremost: the men in the novel (with one or two major exceptions) are largely peripheral to the plot.


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Wiley Wright Character Timeline in Sula

The timeline below shows where the character Wiley Wright appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
When Helene is a young woman, a seaman named Wiley Wright comes to New Orleans to visit his Great Aunt Cecile (Helene’s grandmother). During his... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Signs, Names, and Interpretation Theme Icon
After being married to Wiley for nine years, Helene gives birth to a daughter, Nel, whom she adores. Secretly, Helene... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...decides to return to keep her grandmother company, bringing Nel with her. Helene doesn’t tell Wiley that she is going—she only leaves him a note for when he returns from the... (full context)
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...their ways to Cecile’s house (until this moment, the narrator hadn’t made it clear that Wiley’s Great Aunt Cecile was also Helene’s grandmother). When they arrive, they’re saddened to see that... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Suffering and Community Identity Theme Icon
Women, Motherhood, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...and gray-colored. Nel introduces herself as Nel Greene—to Nel’s surprise, Eva correctly remembers Nel as “Wiley Wright’s girl,” and then demands, “Tell me how you killed that little boy.” Nel is... (full context)