Thursday, August 20, 2020

AAVE and Standard English in dialogue in Toni Morrison's "Sula"

Lying alone on her deathbed, Sula Peace in Toni Morrison's Sula ponders the conversation she's just had with her childhood friend Nel Wright: "I didn't mean anything. I never meant anything." Here, she's commenting on the affair she had with Nel's husband Jude, which meant nothing to her, though it meant a lot to Nel, especially after Jude left her. But this also echoes Sula's mother Hannah's earlier comment to her grandmother Eva: "I didn't mean nothing by it, Mamma." Hannah uses AAVE grammar (with negative concord), while in this echo of her mother, Sula, who had once left her hometown for college, speaks standard English to herself when she's alone. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 August)

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