Delia Gives Into Evil's Temptation Essay

Delia Gives Into Evil's Temptation Essay

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In the short story “Sweat,” Zora Neale Hurston describes the final months of marriage between Delia Jones and her husband Sykes. Delia’s hard work supports both her husband and their small home, but Sykes takes Delia’s earnings and spends as he pleases. He is also known within their Florida town for his extramarital affairs. Delia’s life is one of managed goodness, and Sykes is Delia’s opposite in all ways. In an attempt to drive Delia from their marriage, Sykes brings a large rattlesnake into their home. Although the snake ultimately ends the pair’s marriage, it is not in the manner Sykes had envisioned. Zora Neale Hurston’s tale depicts the classic struggle of good versus evil, but she also illustrates that evil is pervasive and tempting, leading good people to succumb to evil.
Delia Jones is a churchgoing, hardworking woman who spends her entire week, beginning Sunday nights, washing the townspeople’s clothing. For fifteen years, Delia’s hard work has provided for her home, which she plans to have “for her old days” (Hurston 293). She and her husband Sykes are locked in a struggle over the home, which is Delia’s prized possession. Her “sweat…paid for this home,” and she has created life here by planting trees around the home (293). However, Delia’s plan to keep her home is compromised by her husband. Sykes promises his current lover, Bertha, that she “ ‘kin have dat li’l ole house soon’s [he] git dat ‘oman outadere’ ” (296). Hurston creates sympathy for Delia through this struggle. Sykes is the evil within the marriage, and Delia is the good counterpart.
Although Delia is marked by “habitual meekness” (293), she stands up to Sykes one evening. After he tramples her sorted laundry and “step[s] roughly upon the whitest pile of ...

... middle of paper ...

...sgressions against his wife, Delia must also face the consequences of her decision. It is here that the reader must decide Delia’s fate. Hurston illustrates Delia’s struggle throughout the story, and the reader’s sympathy for Delia increases. Both the mood and the tone of the story are very dark, and Hurston uses this to bear down on the reader, pushing the reader to ‘root’ for Delia. When the snake attacks Sykes, the reader feels triumphant for Delia and may believe that good has prevailed over evil. One must question if relishing in Delia’s victory implies that one would also give in to temptation as Delia did. Hurston poses the question to the reader to consider if he or she is strong enough to resist the temptation of evil.

Works Cited

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Sweat.” Backpack Literature. Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Boston: Longman, 2010. 291-301. Print.

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