Delia's Marriage in Hurston's Sweat Essays

Delia's Marriage in Hurston's Sweat Essays

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In Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, Sweat, Delia finds herself stuck in an unbearable marriage. Her husband, Sykes, mistreats her, leaves all work to her, and is unfaithful. After being married to Sykes for 15 years, Delia has lost all hope in the marriage. The countless beatings and painful acts of Sykes have brought her over the edge. She is forced to go against her strict religious beliefs because of the life in which she has been leading since her matrimony to her husband. One passage that sums up many factions of Delia and Sykes’s relationship is as follows:
“She lay awake, gazing upon the debris that cluttered their matrimonial trail. Not an image left standing along the way. Anything like flowers had long ago been drowned in the salty stream that had been pressed from her heart. Her tears, her sweat, her blood. She had brought love to the union and he had brought a longing after the flesh. Two months after the wedding, he had given her the first brutal beating. She had the memory of his numerous trips to Orlando with all of his wages when he had returned to her penniless, even before the first year had passed. She was young and soft then, but now she thought of her knotty, muscles limbs, her harsh knuckly hands, and drew herself up into an unhappy little ball in the middle of the big feather bed. Too late now to hope for love, even if it were not Bertha it would be someone else. This case differed from the others only in that she was bolder than the others. Too late for everything except her little home. She had built it for her old days, and planted one by one the trees and flowers there. It was lovely to her, lovely.” (Hurston 680).

     This scene occurs when Delia is lying on her bed, thinking of what had just previously happened. Sykes had gotten home, and as usual, a fight erupted between the two former lovers. The difference about this confrontation though, was that Sykes did not strike Delia, as what usually happens. Delia picked up a metal skillet and threatened to defend herself from her husband as he cowed in fear of being hit. This new approach from Delia, involving a new intimidation, shows how her unnecessary sweat and hard work had gotten to be too much. The act of seizing a skillet from the stove to protect herself symbolizes how in essence, Delia is trying to defend her home. The skillet is a fragment of the house, and as she st...


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...h will occur that night.
The circumstances of any person’s life will eventually decide the outcome. Negative conditions can be bearable enough that there will not be a thorough change in one’s life, but worse situations can have different effects. Sometimes a person is forced to make a change in the way they live their life in order to make it tolerable. In Sweat, by Zora Neale Hurston, Delia’s attitude toward her bad marriage changes because of her lack of endurance for her life. The fire behind her eyes could no longer be restricted by Sykes’ mistreatments and unfaithfulness. Delia’s water had boiled over and what resulted was a flame of another kind. She confronted all that Sykes was with a newly found indifference, and would take a stand against his wrongdoings. The question in which the conclusion of the story asks has to deal with Delia’s devotion to God and her religion. Is it OK to let him die? One may answer the question either way, but essentially, the response will be found in the eye of the beholder.

Works Cited

Hurston, Zora Neale. "Sweat." The Story and Its Writer An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 678-687.

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