Fire figures prominently in Sula—in arguably the two most important scenes in the book, the death of Hannah Peace and the death of Plum Peace, fire “removes” a character from the story. Fire is a powerful destructive force, capable of ending life, and yet it is also undeniably beautiful: Morrison’s descriptions of the flames engulfing Hannah and Plum are among the most gorgeous passages in the novel. Furthermore, fire could even be considered kind. Eva Peace makes the decision to end Plum’s life because Plum seems to be suffering deeply: only fire can bring his life to a clean, merciful end. Fire, in all its ambiguities, could be said to symbolize life itself: life is both cruel and kind, and can’t be simplified to either emotion. And fire could also be said to symbolize Sula Peace—simultaneously the most vicious and the gentlest character in the book.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...notes that weddings always mean death to her. The red gown in Hannah’s dream symbolized fire, clearly. Finally, Eva remembers seeing Sula standing near Hannah’s burning body—“just looking.” When Eva tells... (full context)