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Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston Introduction Issues concerning women have been present in African American literature since ancient times. It was not just a case: African American women have always been preoccupied with the problems of men and women, family, gender roles, moral choices, good and evil, closely related to African American writers have been looked upon as possible to provide the answers for the questions. Sweat, Hurston's best short story about a womans struggle for survival, is a perfect representation of a special role of South in the development of the United States. The freedom in choosing for the Southern women is the greatest paradox of the Old South.
Sweat, feminism, and freedoms Sweat harmonically combines several main directions of American literature, such as romanticism, naturalism, realism, and the features of so-called literature school of local coloring. The romantic theme is Delia's attempt to find her own individuality and freedom: the freedom of choice to be, to think and to live. The importance of childhood remembering, personifications, and classical feature of sufferings underline the elements peculiar to romantic literature. The relations between Delia and her husband Hurston describes with the utmost clarity, sometimes descending to naturalism.
Sweat takes place in Florida. Why Florida? Remember that Zora was born in Eatonville (Florida), a small town inhabited primarily by African-Americans (Using, n. p. ). Florida, as for Zora Neale Hurston, was a kind of a black ghetto for African Americans. It is the embodiment of misunderstanding between the ideals of freedom and the modern society.
Sweat is, actually, the short story influenced both by Hurston's childhood nostalgia's, where she speaks about the life of ordinary black American woman and her attempts of struggle against slavery. The slavery is exposed not as a physical slavery, but as emotional one combined with slavery on a government (the story is also influenced by economic situation in the town in particular and in the country in general). It forces women to protect themselves, to defeat their ideas and beliefs. This book also has in its basis peculiar African American sparkles and tones.
I especially like the phrase from Sweat that sounds like rhythmical blues: Sweat, sweat, sweat! Work and sweat, cry and sweat, pray and sweat! (Hurston, n. p. ). It gives us a wonderful and amazing mixture of African traditions with tones of South American influence.
Reading the book, we can speak neither about African influence on American culture, not American influence on African culture. We can find the integral artistic synthesis of social and cultural grounds between Southern states with their unique demography and inter-race relations. Being based on fact, that there was a close contact between neighbor ethnic groups, the closeness of literature development made such interrelation inevitable. African American literature inherited from Hurston's Sweat not only the mood of melancholy mixed up with laughter, but the most characteristic peculiarities of her work: intonation add-ons, the manner of style, typical rhythmic formulas, to mention a few. This mixture of blues and words became the peculiar feature of Sweat full of African folk slang.
Just read Delia's words said in despair to her husband: Mah tub of suds is filled yo' belly with vittles more times than yo' hands is filled it. Mah sweat is done paid for this house and Ah reckon Ah kin keep on sweat' in it. (Hurston, n. p. ). Sounds like gloomy blues, the hopes that always doomed to be disappointed. Zora Neale Hurston's Sweat explores the problems of self-identification, self-consciousness, and struggle against abuse, struggle for equal rights as well as for defending womens rights for their own place in cultural life of the country, formation of own subnational culture, the embodiment of inner life of African Americans in the United States.
Besides, these problems were faced by many African-Americans and resulted in appearance of such writers as Zora Neale Hurston. Sweat shows us rather the slavery of soul than the slavery of body. It is a bright description of conflicts, defeating the balance between personal dilemmas and the cruelty. Hurston brightly shows the readers the complexity of life of African American woman.
The whole short story is dedicated to Delia's unhappy marriage and hardships the woman has to meet during the course of life with her cruel husband. This abstract from the text perfectly describes Delia's relationships with her husband: 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 (Hurston n.
p. ) Delia Jones is a wash-woman. She has to work hard to earn money. Although in Hurston's stories black women play an important role and show themselves as the powerful black matriarchs, combining femininity with resilience, strength, and fortitude, Delia is an exact antithesis. She is afraid of snakes and her husband Sykes scares her on purpose. Remember the situation when her husbands made a big bull whip to fall upon her shoulders and slither to the floor beside her. "Sykes, what you throw dat whip on me like dat?
You know it would see me -- looks just like a snake, an' you knows how seemed Ah is of snakes. "Course Ah know it! That's how come Ah done it. " (Hurston n. p. ) Sweat seems to appear as the endless story of abuse. Hurston describes Sykes as a cruel, brutal, uneducated man who likes to abuse his wife and enjoys making her suffer.
When Delia goes to bed after a hard working day, he comes to the room and announces his presence in bed by kicking her feet and rudely snatching the covers away. Delia is so tired with his abuses that she is able to show nothing but indifference: a triumphant indifference to all that he was or did (Hurston, n. p. ). The theme of abuse mixed up with the themes of liberties and freedoms found reflection in this short story.
Although slavery was abolished, Sweat is dedicated to women freedoms, the themes of conflicts between men and women, inequality, dangers, suppression, victimization, humiliation, and abuse, to mention a few. Hurston's feminism here doesnt relate gender inequality with social class, but regards the dominance of men over women seizing society on all levels, including interpersonal. Inequality in the relations between Delia and Sykes are described by Zora Neale Hurston as classical inequality in the relations between men and women that has been existed for hundreds of years. Hurston proposes the reader to come to the understanding of women needs and rights to be equal with men.
I want my essay to be sincere, analytical, and critical. It also should reflect my own attitude to Hurston's short story. My understanding of South and its literature comes out from my own life. The alienation of black women, their sufferings and fears are my own feelings. I started to read Hurston's Sweat to understand the world around me. I was completely lost in her great short stories.
I read her story to understand and to explain something. However, something I discovered in this story: the world of moral cripples, violence, abuse, - everything known as the Southern gothic. The things I discovered in Sweat didnt take me out from my own world. On contrary, it brought me back to my own world. In 30 - 50 s the image of Southern lady became one of the most interesting in American literature. The problem of freedom and right for choosing, obviously, plays an important role in the ideal structure of Hurston's Sweat.
It seems that the story was primarily addressed to the women and formulated the rules to obey, however, supporting the idea of necessity of conscious moral choice in the process of self-identification. Sweat represents moderate or limited feminism. However, this limited feminism has only decorative function and has no attitude to the very essence of ideals of freedom. Zora Neale Hurston, not being aside of national processes, says that her task is to educate women with ability of self-realization in life and society.
She criticizes dominating ornamental character of Southern woman weak, dependent, obedient and resigned to her husband. She also doubts in rehabilitation of traditional category of feminism in modern political-economical conditions. As against to traditional ideal of women, Hurston describes Delia as weak but independent woman full of contradictions. On the one hand, Delia represents the woman clearly capable of achieving proper life and proper work place and resents being forced into this poor and unrewarding homemaker role. She definitely wants to have her own freedom and to be liberated. On the other hand, Delia fully obeys to her husband and submissively tolerates his outrage.
It seems that she considers that she will never achieve noticeable success in striving for freedom, striving for impossible: 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 (Hurston, n. p. ). Sweat is full of problems of choice. This problem consists not in the real choice of the hero (Delia) between personal and non-personal, but in conscious combination of personal and non-personal interests.
The process of self-identification in interpretation of Hurston here arouses as the process of conscious choice of moral priorities of the Southern society. Hurston describes the formation of Delia's character and doubts that the main aim of any woman is to obey her husband and to lead a steady life of house-keeper, mother and wife. Remember the episode when Delia exclaims: Mah tub of suds is filled yo' belly with vittles more times than yo' hands is filled it. Mah sweat is done paid for this house and Ah reckon Ah kin keep on sweat' in it. (Hurston, n.
p. ). Gradually Delia becomes more and more independent. She is tired of her husbands abuses and tries to protect herself from Sykes insulting and outrage. The following passage from the text is a good illustration of Delia's character formation: Somehow, before sleep came, she found herself saying aloud: "Oh well, whatever goes over the Devil's back, is got to come under his belly. Sometime or rather, Sykes, like everybody else, is ginger reap his sowing. " After that she was able to build a spiritual earthworks against her husband. His shells could no longer reach her.
Amen (Hurston, n. p. ). Hurston describes Sykes to be a little awed by this new Delia (Hurston, n. p. ) According to mens psychology, all biographies of the main women characters that underline their independence should always end up with marriage. Woman should agree with the fact that she is not able to take decisions independently and she must cultivate such personal qualities like obedience, worship, sympathy and understanding in relation to her husband. According to them, the woman should go through the long way of self-identification and self-realization and to neglect their autonomy as they should come to conclusion that the happiness of any woman is in family life.
Such choice seems to be illogical and inconsequent. Such denouement turns the whole story and denies the sense and meaning of all previous pages and, in such a way, confirms them. The problem of choice is, therefore, a mere paradox. On the one hand, the writer supports the necessity of education and upbringing the independence; on the other hand, she underlines the firmness and stability of value priorities of patriarchal Southern society, as well as the responsibility of women for its preserving. In such a way, the very image of Southern lady can be interpreted as oxymoron, and the problem of moral choice can be treated as one of the paradoxes of the Old South. Conclusion Sweat is interesting for its artistic multi pronged narration.
Vivid and folk narration, which creates an element of reliability in combination with unlimited fantasies, philosophical reflections, deep psychoanalysis, social conditionality of Delia and Sykes, realistic retrospective narration, irony of different kinds, sarcasm and tragedy all this creates compound genre and stylistic unity. Zora Neale Hurston tried to express her feelings regarding confrontation of men and women. She adverted to this confrontation again and over again. Zora Neale Hurston formulates the following thought: The only justification of Sweat is that the short story tries to express life.
In the short story she tries to discover the character and psychology of men and women, dwelling on principles of self-identification, and womans struggle for survival. In defiance of common opinion claiming that women are not able to take decisions independently and must cultivate worship and obedience in relation to their husbands, Hurston's ideal of woman goes through the long way of self-identification. Delia, who has to act like a man and, at the same time, to be an obedient wife, is an interesting interpretation of the role of South in the development of the United States. The freedom in choosing for the Southern women is the greatest paradox of the Old South.
Bibliography: Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. American Literature Research and Analysis Web Site. 30 July 1996. University of South Florida. 17 June 2006. < web > Uppling, Jill. Sweat and The Gilded Six-Bits: Between Hurston's Biography and Education. American Literature Research and Analysis Web Site. 30 July 1996.
University of South Florida. 17 June 2006. < web >
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Research essay sample on Sweat By Zora Neale Hurston
Sweat by Zora Hurston Essay
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Zora Neale Hurston’s short story "Sweat" takes place in the 1920s in a small African American community in southern Florida. The story takes a look at a woman dominated by her husband, a common issue for many wives in the south during this time. Delia Jones, the protagonist in the story, is a hard-working woman who has bought her own home and supported her husband for fifteen years by taking in the laundry of white folks from the next town over. Delia’s husband Sykes does not value her or the work she does to support the both of them. Sykes has abused his wife for fifteen years and takes no shame in parading around his fat mistress for all to see. Sykes wants to get rid of Delia and take everything she’s ever worked for. Delia, though…show more content…
Depending on who is speaking at the time, the tone of “Sweat” seems either one of anger and frustration, one of hope and determination, or one of sadness and despair. When Sykes speaks the tone is angry and evil because almost everything that comes out of his mouth is negative. In comparison, When Delia speaks the tone rings more of peace, hope, and determination. When the narrator chimes in the tone seems sad because he/she informs the reader of the upsetting truths about Delia’s marriage and the many hardships she has had to face throughout the story. Delia represents the good in the story. She remains calm, level-headed, and spiritually in tune despite her husband‘s determination to make her miserable. Once a "right pretty li'l trick," Delia is now worn and dried out like sugar cane that's been chewed to no end (“Sweat” 43). However her soul remains strong as she turns to her spirituality for comfort and hope. She has smarts although uneducated and the fact that she built her own house and now supports her and her husband by washing white people’s clothes demonstrates her strength and determination. Delia is a dynamic character as shown early in the story with this quote: “She seized the iron skillet from the stove and struck a defensive pose, which act surprised him greatly, coming from her.” Sykes’ dumbfounded reaction to Delia’s defensive action allows the reader to assume that this