Free College Essays - Religious Symbols and Symbolism in Sweat
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Religious Symbolism in "Sweat"
Zora Neale Hurston's "Sweat" is a short story rich in moral and religious parallels. This story is about a common African- American working woman in the deep South and how she clings to her faith in God to see her through the hardships caused by her faithful and abusive husband. Throughout this story there is religious symbolism that characterizes Delia and Sykes Jones as two people on opposite ends of the moral spectrum yet bound by marital vows that have lost their meaning.
Delia Jones is a hard working woman who uses her faith in God to guide and protect her from her husband's relentless physical and emotional abuse. From the very beginning, Delia represents diligence in work, humbleness, and saintly virtue. This protagonist is depicted as physically feeble yet spiritually strong.
Diametrically opposite to Delia's character is her husband Sykes. Sykes Jones seems to oppose Delia in his every word and action. He is physically abusive toward his wife, non-virtuous in that he is adulterous, and he takes advantage of Delia's hard work by spending the money that she makes on his lover. While Sykes is physically strong and has no virtue or faith in God, Delia's strength lies in her religion and humble tolerance of her husband which proves, in the end, prevalent over his brute strength and abusive attitude.
Certain objects and situations in the story suggest the influence of religion. The white clothes Delia washes in the story are symbolic of her character. White represents her virtue and saintly tendencies as she humbly tolerates Sykes' torment. The religious association of snakes and evil is prevalent in two instances in this story. Sykes at one point uses a whip to scare Delia by rubbing it on her and making her think it was a snake. Also, later in the story, Sykes places a real snake just outside the door of their house for the sole purpose of scaring Delia. These two examples could be seen as a biblical allusion as in the story of Adam and Eve when Satan took the form of a snake. The symbolism of snakes in "Sweat" subtly and cleverly illustrates Sykes as being an evil antagonist character.
The pattern of good vs.