Although Sula is arranged in chronological order, it does not construct a linear story with the causes of each new plot event clearly visible in the preceding chapter. Instead, Sula uses "juxtaposition," the technique through which collages are put together. The effects of a collage on the viewer depend on unusual combinations of pictures, or on unusual arrangements such as overlapping. The pictures of a collage don't fit smoothly together, yet they create a unified effect. The "pictures" of Sula's collage are separate events or character sketches. Together, they show the friendship of Nel and Sula as part of the many complicated, overlapping relationships that make up the Bottom.
Morrison presents the novel from the perspective of an omniscient narrator -- one who knows all the characters' thoughts and feelings. An omniscient narrator usually puts the reader in the position of someone viewing a conventional portrait or landscape rather than a collage. (In such situations, the viewer can perceive the unity of the whole work with only a glance.) To create the collage-like effect of Sula, the omniscient narrator never reveals the thoughts of all the characters at one time. Instead, from chapter to chapter, she chooses a different point-of-view character, so that a different person's consciousness and experience dominate a particular incident or section. In addition, the narrator sometimes moves beyond the consciousness of single, individual characters, to reveal what groups in the community think and feel. On the rare occasions when it agrees unanimously, she presents the united community's view. As in The Bluest Eye and Jazz, the community has such a direct impact on individuals that it amounts to a character.
In narrative technique for Sula, Morrison draws on a specifically modernist usage of juxtaposition. Modernism, discussed in Chapter 3, was the dominant literary movement during the first half of the twentieth century. Writers of this period abandoned...
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