Free Analysis of Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston Essay Sample

“Sweat” by Zorn Huston in the beginning starts by introducing the reader to protagonist Character known as Delia.  The way she sorts clothes in Florida at her home on a spring night. The main woman introduced is ‘sweat’ a washwoman and is used to working into late hours of the night on Sundays so that she can start her week after going to church.  She sings in a low song with a mournful key as she wonders where husband better know by the name Sykes has gone because he is with his horse and her working equipment. As she tries to understand where her husband is, she feels like something has fallen around her shoulders and screams only to realize later that it was her husband who touched her with a bull whip that he uses to ride a horse. This imagery however is not coincidental and communicates to the reader of Sweat that the husband seems to be an oppressing and imposing figure.

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Delia is also not happy because the way her husband approaches him because he had made the feeling to be that of a touch of a snake and scolds him. Sykes instead of seeing he has done the wrong thing to her, he shouts back at her because he knows she has white people’s clothes in the house and that he has warned her severally that he doesn’t like them. She ignores him at this juncture.  It is like he is determined and bound to fight her and time after another tried to provoke her with his words. It reaches a point where she just can’t stand that oppression anymore and she busts, screams on how hard she has been trying to work and picks a skillet from her stove wanting to hit him. At this time, Sykes is taken back by her actions since her anger had reached the brim. The writer says that the kind of anger he saw cowed him and did not strike her as he used to many times before. The reader also realizes that Sykes is abusive towards his wife and this makes Delia’s character to be even more surprising.

Thereafter he has done all these things to his wife; he leaves her wife alone in order to ponder her unhappy life and marriage alone. He intentionally sleeps with another woman known as Bertha and spends all her money in buying her trite gifts. Delia has to find happiness from going to church and the beauty of her well maintained small house. Sykes comes back home at dawn and steals covers before the beginning of a new scene. Clearly, the reader gets to know that this is a troubled house and that the patience of Delia on her abusive husband may have greater impact later and would require some resolution. In one time she is quoted as saying that it will be well if whatever goes over the back of the devil comes under his belly and this shows that Delia knows something is going to happen to him.

Later in another episode, as Delia sets out to do some washing, she passes by a group of men sitting at a store.  At this time the tone of the book ‘sweat’ changes as these men comment on how she used to be pretty and how shameful that she is often beaten by her husband and that she has lost all her pretty looks.  They turn around and start to discuss Skye’s behaviour and how he stays with Bertha and feel bad about him and one says that there should be a law about him and that he is not fit to carry guts to a bear. The reader in this instance gets to understand that the whole town is aware of syke's bad behaviour and that they are all against him. It even looks bad that when Delia is on her way back home, she sees Sykes out front of Bertha telling her of how he was ready to buy her anything or whatever she thought of. He did this to disgust Delia as stated by the author. Clearly it is bad manners for a married man to do all these things to her rightfully married wife.

As time passes, the narrator gains ground to unfold the whole truth and nothing but the truth as he lets the reader to know that Bertha has been living in town for three months and also in another place that Delia and Sykes have been fighting all along without any peaceful interlude. This is a sign of a nerve breaking marriage where one partner is abusing another partner in order to provoke her hunger and eventually win nothing. In one night, it is said they ate and slept silently. Once it is also stated that when Delia tried to bring some friendliness to Sykes, she was always repulsed by an equal force each time she attempted. To this end, it was clear that breaches were to remain agape.

Sykes comes home one afternoon with a box and suggests to Delia to look on the inside. Delia expected to get something lovely that her husband had bought her to reconcile her long heartbroken life with him, to her surprise; she finds a very big rattlesnake which her husband had caught in the fields. Instead of getting rid of it from the lovely woman Delia, he refuses to do so even after realizing that it was driving Delia mad. It is interesting to note that the rattlesnake had taken a large meal before Sykes caught it, but continues to rattle around while scaring Delia to death.

Sadly, one night when Delia comes home and she finds that the snake is loose and moving here and there, she gets out of the house and wits outside for her husband to come home. As normal he arrives home shouting at his wife and also making a lot of noise in the kitchen not knowing that snakes don’t like hearing noise. The snake simply bites him and this time around, Delia has the option of helping him by taking him to hospital but chooses not to but simply lets him die.  Clearly whatever used to go over the devil’s back has come under the same devil’s belly.

The reader at this point is left with a lot of speculation on whether or not Delia was fearing the snake would bite her if she tried to get into the house to save her husband from the snake bit or not. But given from the kind of life that she lived under the umbrella of this young man known s Sykes, it is a general consensus that she had no option but to let her die so that she could be free from the abuses of a man she loved and always tried to bring her relation to him.  It can be left to the reader to argue on both sides of such possibility of whether or not she let him die intentionally or she was afraid of risking a snake bite.

In a brief analysis of the characters of the two, there is a lot of contrast in their relationship and character. Hurston chooses the narrator that makes the story believable and makes Delia’s plight to look more extreme than under usual circumstances. The author chooses not to make Delia narrate the story because it would not deliver the same feelings to the reader leaving him sympathetic towards Delia. Whatever that happens to her seems real to the reader especially the addition of Bertha as another woman and the way he tells her that he tells her that he would buy her anything she thinks of just in front of his wife.


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