Sweat, by Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” is a distressing tale of human struggle as it relates to women. The story commences with a hardworking black washwoman named Delia contently and peacefully folds laundry in her quiet home. Her placidity doesn’t last long when her abusive husband, Sykes, emerges just in time to put her back in her ill-treated place. Delia has been taken by this abuse for some fifteen years. She has lived with relentless beatings, adultery, even six-foot long venomous snakes put in places she requires to get to. Her husband’s vindictive acts of torment and the way he has selfishly utilized her can only be defined as malignant. In the end of this leaves the hardworking woman no choice but to make the most arduous decision of her life. That is, to either stand up for herself and let her husband expire or to continue to serve as a victim. "Sweat,” reflects the plight of women during the 1920s through 30s, as the African American culture was undergoing a shift in domestic dynamics. In times of slavery, women generally led African American families and assumed the role as the adherent of the family, taking up domestic responsibilities. On the other hand, the males, slaves at the time, were emasculated by their obligations and treatment by white masters. Emancipation and Reconstruction brought change to these dynamics as African American men commenced working at paying jobs and women were abandoned at home. African American women were assimilated only on the most superficial of calibers into a subcategory of human existence defined by gender-predicated discrimination. (Chambliss) In accordance to this story, Delia was the bread victor fortifying herself and Sykes. Zora Neale Hurston’s 1926 “Sweat” demonstrates the vigor as wel... ... middle of paper ... ...ng point, ‘“Mah cup is done run ovah,”’ again, another metaphorical illustration of how tired she is of being physically mistreated and mentally abused by Sykes, thus, her rage is channeled towards protecting herself and the property she has assumed through her dedication as a washwoman. Hurston makes this ever so clear as Delia shouts at Sykes, ‘“Don't think Ah'm gointuh be run 'way fum mah house neither.”’ Sykes has been unfaithful to Delia for a while now and she has finally taken the final straw. Hurston empowers Delia, through writing, “Delia said this with no signs of fear and Sykes departed from the house, threatening her, but made not the slightest move to carry out any of them.” This is an important step for Delia towards independence. Delia is no longer afraid of Sykes, however she has one more fear to overcome before she is completely free of oppression.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes zora neale hurston's "sweat" as a distressing tale of human struggle as it relates to women.
  • Analyzes how hurston's use of and vivid description of the bullwhip, that sykes uses to frighten delia, reflect the oppressive and evil nature of man, and how the short story perceives men exhibiting similar oppression.
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