After returning from the devastation of World War I, Shadrack founds a new “holiday”—National Suicide Day. On this day, he walks through the streets of Medallion, ringing a bell and yelling about suicide. Although the people of the Bottom initially sneer at Shadrack for celebrating in this way, National Suicide Day eventually becomes an accepted part of their lives: it’s just another day of the year, like Thanksgiving or the 4th of July. National Suicide Day is a disturbing symbol for the way that suffering people come to accept their own suffering—to take it as a law of nature. The danger of this kind of acceptance—seemingly a useful coping mechanism—is that miserable people, in this case the black people of the Bottom, can come to celebrate as well as accept their suffering. This becomes the case in the 1940s, when life in Ohio deteriorates, and the people of the Bottom begin to embrace their own pain, parading through the streets and singing about suicide—a parade that ironically ends in several deaths.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol National Suicide Day appears in Sula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...are sick. On January 3rd, 1941, Shadrack is walking through the streets as usual, celebrating National Suicide Day . And yet this January 3rd is different for him. For the first time since... (full context)