Both fire and water are brought up a lot throughout the novel. Fire is associated with death (as is water) in the novel. Fire often represents destruction and loss, but in the case of Plum’s death (and possibly Hannah’s) it represents the idea of cleansing. When Eva pours kerosene on Plum, he describes the feeling as “some kind of baptism, some kind of blessing” (47).  And, in general, one of Eva’s purposes of burning Plum is to cleanse herself of the pain she feels when seeing him suffer each day. When Hannah dies in a fire, it’s possible that this cleanses Sula of a mother who is at best indifferent and at worst admits to not liking her daughter. On the other hand, water, which usually represents the idea of cleansing, appears more as engulfing and consuming. For Nel and Sula, water represents Chicken Little’s horrible drowning. Water also kills many unexpectedly near the end of the novel when the people of Bottom are walking in the parade with Shadrack.

– McClain

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