During the early 20th century, women were expected to fall under the same conventional gender role. They were all supposed to be submissive, get married early and let the husband support their family. Women were not expected to go out and make something of themselves, but were expected to raise the family. We see this conventional gender role in the novel Sula, with the characters Sula and Nel. When they were younger, the two were dependent upon each other and inseparable. They relied on each other because they both had the same train of thought; they were going to break the gender role of the era and live a life of happiness. However, as they got older, Sula and Nel grew apart and Nel accepted the conventional role of women in the society. Therefore, because of society's expectations of women, Sula and Nel were not dependent upon each other as they grew older.
The differences in their personalities complement one another in a way that forges an almost unbreakable alliance. Sula is compulsive and uncontrollable while her counterpart, Nel, is sensible and principled. Sula" by Tony Morrison is the story of a friendship between Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who are opposites in the way of relating to other people, to the world around them, and to themselves.
The personalities of Nel and Sula are formed through their family life. Sula is brought up in a crazy atmosphere with her mother sleeping around, her family being burned to death, and no one really there to comfort and love her like a child needs. Her house life is kaotic and disorderly and they don't seem to mind all the drama they make of it. Sula learns, growing up, that sex is not a sacred thing, its a lesiure activity with no meaning and makes no attachments. Sula also learns that family relationships are not so important. She was raised by her grandmother and never even new her mother tell she was in her adolescents.
Society's expectations for women in the first half of the 20th century caused Sula and Nel to become less dependent upon each other as they developed from adolescence into adulthood. Throughout the novel, both Sula and Nel are greatly related to each other. Nel provides a shadow of Sula because they are from such different backgrounds. They seemed to feed off of each other and both hoped to break the gender role when they got older. However, as they developed, Nel fell into society's expectations for her, and Sula defied it. Therefore, once the two women entered adulthood, Sula was not dependent upon Nel.