Zora Neale Hurston’s short story Sweat Essay

Zora Neale Hurston’s short story Sweat Essay

Length: 1248 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Zora Neale Hurston’s short story Sweat is a visceral reminder of the acute oppression and sexism women have always faced in American society. The protagonist of the story, Delia, is married to a cruel and angry man named Sykes. Through a depiction of their married life this short story shows that despite patriarchal oppression, women have exercised their agency and resisted in a myriad of ways.
The story begins with Delia, a working Black woman in Florida, who is a wash woman. It is a warm spring day and she is sorting and soaking the clothing she washes for the white residents of her town. Her husband walks into the house and is immediately looking for a confrontation. It is throughout this confrontation that the exploitative and abusive nature of Delia and Syke’s relationship becomes clear.
Syke taunts her with his bullwhip, rolls around laughing in mirth at her fear, and continuously kicks the piles of clothing she is working on. Syke, overbearing and dominating, paints a startling portrait of sexist masculinity. He stands in clear contrast to the ways in which Delia is described in his presence: her “thin, stooped shoulders” sag deeper and deeper. In all his masculine, angry bravado, Delia is painted as his opposite, a portrait of meek servitude.
As he stoops over her as she attempts to do her work he yells, “You sho is one aggravatin’ nigger woman!” he declared and stepped into the room. She resumed her work and did not answer him at once. Ah done tole you time and again to keep them white folks’ clothes outa dis house. (Hurston, 1926)
Her work as a wash woman becomes a crucial point of the story. She is not willing to engage in this confrontation until Syke pushes her to snap. She stands up to him in an act of both agency...

... middle of paper ...

...troy her “insides,” her spirit. At his continued indifference she lashes out against him and tells him she hates him and everything he is. This striking display of female power illustrates the resistance against sexist oppression that Delia and women throughout the ages engage in.
Much like Delia’s earlier prophecy, Syke does indeed reap the seeds he sows. In the darkness of the night as he fumbles for a switch the hungry rattlesnake bites him. Afraid and in pain he calls out desperately to his wife. But Delia makes a choice, Delia, in a powerful display of female agency, does not answer his calls. By not acting, she makes the most important choice in the entire story, and lets Syke die.
Delia, in this short story, demonstrates the agency that women have in the face of oppression, and the way they resist sexism and all of its economic and social implications.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Spousal Abuse in Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston Essay examples

-      'You sho' is one aggravatin' nigger woman!'; this is only one example of the abuse in Zora Neale Hurston's short story, 'Sweat'. Spousal abuse is a very common issue in today's society. Hurston represents this form of abuse through the way the husband talks to his wife and the way he treats her.      Delia is a hard-working woman who is very obedient and faithful to her husband, Sykes. Through harsh words, he cuts her down about her work of washing white folks clothes and her looks saying that he 'hates skinny woman';....   [tags: Zora Neale Hurston, short story]

Free Essays
491 words (1.4 pages)

Zora Neale Hurston 's Sweat Essay

- Sykes and Delia Jones have been married for fifteen dreadful years. He is nothing more than a disgraceful selfish husband. Although Delia states “She had brought love to the union and he had brought a longing after the flesh” (Hurston) Sykes resents her. In the short story Sweat written by Zora Neale Hurston, the character Sykes is a cruel and unfaithful husband. Together these two traits create a troubled character. As the story opens he scares his wife Delia by throwing his big bull whip on her shoulders knowing that she may assume it is a snake....   [tags: Marriage, Husband, Zora Neale Hurston, Wife]

Strong Essays
881 words (2.5 pages)

Male And Female Poets And Sweat By Zora Neale Hurston Essays

- Each author has her or his own particular voice. The distinction between a male author and a female essayist, or a male and female anything that is concerned, is essentially physical and social. The male is characterized by the employment or role he decides to tackle. He is an author, or a rancher, or a transport driver, or a gourmet specialist, or whatever. The Woman is a lady first. Her career choice, in many societies, is optional. They both have diverse written work styles. Writers, also catch the significant feelings that contain a specific article, topic or occasion....   [tags: Woman, Gender, Female, Zora Neale Hurston]

Strong Essays
814 words (2.3 pages)

Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston Essay

- Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston is a remarkable author who reflects her life in most of her novels, short stories, and her essays. She was a writer during the Harlem Renaissance, also known as “the new negro movement”, however; her writings were not given proper recognition at first because they were not of the “norm” for that time period. All of the authors during the Harlem Renaissance were expected to write about race with a political mind set. Hurston was tired of seeing the same writings just different authors so her literary works were very different and were meant to stand out (Trudell)....   [tags: Zora Neale Hurston Sweat]

Strong Essays
964 words (2.8 pages)

`` Sweat `` By Zora Neale Hurston Essay

- In literature, the significant themes of a story can sometimes be developed within dramatic death scenes. With that being said, Zora Neale Hurston 's presents an unappreciated housewife and her high-class husband 's sinful ways which ultimately lead to the husband 's unplanned death, in her short story “Sweat”. The concluding death scene can best be described as illustrating the theme as “what goes around comes around”. Sykes was abusive and tried plotting his wife, Delia 's, death by using a rattlesnake, but his plan backfired and it was Sykes that was killed in the end....   [tags: Marriage, Zora Neale Hurston, Snake, A Story]

Strong Essays
759 words (2.2 pages)

Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston Essay example

- Marriage is a concept that society takes extremely inaccurately. It is not something one can fall back from. Once someone enter it there is no way back. In Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Sweat” she tells the story of Delia, a washerwoman whom Sykes, her husband, mistreats while he ventures around with other women and later attempts to kill Delia to open a way for a second marriage with one of his mistresses. By looking at “Sweat” through the feminist and historical lens Hurston illustrates the idea of a sexist society full of men exploiting and breaking down women until men dispose of them....   [tags: marriage, feminist, christians]

Strong Essays
1460 words (4.2 pages)

Sweat, by Zora Neale Hurston Essay

- 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....   [tags: literary analysis, character development]

Strong Essays
782 words (2.2 pages)

Zora Neale Hurston Essay

- On March 21, 1924, the National Urban League, spearheaded by Charles Johnson, held a dinner to introduce new literary talent to New York City's black community. This dinner party resulted in the Survey Graphic, a magazine whose attention was upon social and cultural pluralism, to publish a special Harlem edition, which would feature the works of Harlem's black writers and was to be edited by Alain Locke. Locke, a literary scholar, black philosopher, professor and authority on black culture, later expanded the Harlem special edition of the Survey Graphic into and anthology he titled The New Negro....   [tags: Biography, Zora Neale Hurston]

Strong Essays
1884 words (5.4 pages)

Delia's Marriage in Hurston's Sweat Essays

- 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....   [tags: Zora Neale Hurston]

Strong Essays
2162 words (6.2 pages)

Free College Essays - Religious Symbols and Symbolism in Sweat

- 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....   [tags: Hurston Sweat Essays]

Free Essays
471 words (1.3 pages)