In her novel Sula, Toni Morrison immerses the reader in the rich and diverse lives to be found in the black community of Medallion. Morrison illuminates the harmful effect white patriarchal society has on minority members of society; she fights back against this historical oppression by centering her novel on the internal life of the black community. Morrison portrays their everyday struggles and in doing so exposes white ignorance of black culture and ways of life. Sula challenges the dominant ideology through the deconstruction of binary oppositions, working to demarginalize the roles of blacks as well as women in society.
From the start of the novel's very first chapter, Morrison aims to show the destructive effect of white male-dominated society in the lives of her characters. Cynthia Davis notes that, "All of Morrison's characters exist in a world defined by its blackness and by the surrounding white society that both violates and denies it (Davis 217)." The tale of the Bottom highlights the history of white duplicity and mistreatment of blacks that caused the town on the side of the hills to come about. Playing on his slave's ignorance, a white slave owner gives the freed slave not the promised valley "Bottom" land, but hilly land that he claims is "the bottom of heaven (Morrison 5)." The ill treatment of blacks is brought into the novel's present day with the story of Shadrack, a World War I veteran and shell shock victim. Upon his return to semi-consciousness, Shadrack is released from the military hospital despite his psychologically disturbed condition and left to find his way home. In anguish and uncertainty over the unfamiliar setting around him and his own lost identity, Shadrack begins to cry on a curbside and is picked up by the police and promptly booked for "vagrancy and intoxication," showing white society's destructive stereotyping and lack of concern for those outside of the norm (13).