Sula Peace’s most obvious physical characteristic is the large birthmark immediately above her eyes. The birthmark is intimidating and even frightening, and inspires many elaborate stories among the people of the Bottom. Yet it’s also exotic and enticing, especially the way that it grows steadily darker as Sula gets older. It seems that Sula’s ever-darkening birthmark is a symbol of her age, maturity, and growing sadness—the very things she’s trying so hard to fight against. At the same time, Morrison claims that the birthmark resembles a “stemmed rose”—an image that is both feminine (the flower) and masculine (the long phallic stem). This points to Sula’s androgynous qualities: she’s a woman who desires the independence and freedom of a man. Perhaps it would be most accurate to say that the birthmark symbolizes whatever we conceive it to represent. Each character in Sula provides a different interpretation of the birthmark: Sula’s admirers think it looks like a snake, Shadrack the fisherman think it looks like a tadpole, etc. The birthmark is like a Rorschach inkblot test, revealing more about the interpreter than about Sula herself.
The Birthmark Quotes in Sula
Sula was a heavy brown with large quiet eyes, one of which featured a birthmark that spread from the middle of the lid toward the eyebrow, shaped something like a stemmed rose. It gave her otherwise plain face a broken excitement and blue-blade threat like the keloid scar of the razored man who sometimes played checkers with her grandmother. The birthmark was to grow darker as the years passed, but now it was the same shade as her gold-flecked eyes, which, to the end, were as steady and clean as rain.