Sula never competed; she simply helped other define themselves.
It's been awhile since I've read a Morrison novel. In college I was required to read The Bluest Eye and Beloved for two different classes and while I liked them both a lot, I haven't picked anything else of hers up until now. It only took twenty pages or for me to remember how fantastic Toni Morrison really is. Maybe because Sula was the first Morrison novel I've read on my own, or maybe because the first two were for class and those sometimes go under appreciated, but I had a tiny Toni Morrison awakening. She is really amazing. At times her prose is like poetry and there are so many layers woven throughout the novel its underlying meaning is something you'll think about long after finishing it.
Sula is the story of two women and the forces that bring them together and later break them apart. On the surface Sula and Nel are juxtapositions of one another; Sula is wild and unconventional (with an ironic last name of Peace), while Nel is virtuous and restrained. However, as the story progresses these roles don't seem so clearly defined. Distinctions of character and morality itself are blurred over time, changing shape to suggest nothing is ever set in stone and things aren't always what they appear. The theme of ambiguity is examined throughout the novel through a number of different characters. Sula also explores the complexities of what it means to be a black women in America. It is a study of female friendships, especially black female friendships; their evolution and growth, what their absence implies, and just how important they are in terms of providing a sense of safeness and relief.
So when they met... they felt the ease and comfort in old friends. Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to the them, they had set about creating something else to be.
In Sula, we see that the relationships between women are essential to achieving a sense of completeness in life; Morrison implies sharing feelings and emotions among women works to awaken and define oneself. Moreover, Morrison continually
criticizes male/female relationships throughout the novel, suggesting men cannot be a friend or a "comrade," at least to a woman. For Sula and Nel being black and female created a barrier, limiting them further in life but, at the same time, bringing them together to forge their own path.
I look forward to reading more Morrison. She isn't the easiest writer to read, but she's definitely worth the effort. Next on my wishlist is Song of Solomon. If you haven't read anything of hers, I'd like to direct you to Book Riot's Toni Morrison reading pathway.