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.
Fire Quotes in Sula
He opened his eyes and saw what he imagined was the great wing of an eagle pouring a wet lightness over him. Some kind of baptism, some kind of blessing, he thought. Everything is going to be all right, it said. Knowing that it was so he closed his eyes and sank back into the bright hole of sleep. Eva stepped back from the bed and let the crutches rest under her arms. She rolled a bit of newspaper into a tight stick about six inches long, lit it and threw it onto the bed where the kerosene-soaked Plum lay in snug delight. Quickly, as the whoosh of flames engulfed him, she shut the door and made her slow and painful journey back to the top of the house.