"Sweat" by Zora Neale HurstonNow frequently anthologized, Zora Neale Hurstons short story Sweat was first published in Fire!!, a legendary literary magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, whose sole issue appeared in November 1926. Among contributions by Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman, Sweat stood out both for its artistic accomplishment and its exploration of rural Southern black life. In Sweat Hurston claimed the voice that animates her mature fiction, notably the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God; the themes of marital conflict and the development of spiritual consciousness were introduced as well. Sweat exemplifies Hurstons lifelong concern with womens relation to language and the literary possibilities of black vernacular.
This casebook for the story includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of the authors life, the authoritative text of Sweat, and a second story, The Gilded Six-Bits. Published in 1932, this second story was written after Hurston had spent years conducting fieldwork in the Southern United States. The volume also includes Hurstons groundbreaking 1934 essay, Characteristics of Negro Expression, and excerpts from her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. An article by folklorist Roger Abrahams provides additional cultural contexts for the story, as do selected blues and spirituals. Critical commentary comes from Alice Walker, who led the recovery of Hurstons work in the 1970s, Robert Hemenway, Henry Louis Gates, Gayl Jones, John Lowe, Kathryn Seidel, and Mary Helen Washington.
“Sweat” — Zora Neale Hurston
Her husband, Sykes , returns home and plays a nasty trick on her with his horsewhip, which resembles a snake. She is frightened and scolds him, but he simply laughs. Sykes calls Delia a hypocrite for working on Sunday after church, stomps on the clothes, and threatens her with physical violence. Delia abandons her meek posture and stands to defend herself. She proclaims that her sweat paid for the house and she will do as she pleases in it, threatening Sykes with a cast iron skillet. Sykes, surprised, slinks away to spend the night with his mistress. Delia finishes her work and goes to bed.
It was Sunday. Any other night, Delia Jones would have been in bed for two hours by this time. But she was a wash-woman, and Monday morning meant a great deal to her. So she collected the soiled clothes on Saturday when she returned the clean things. Sunday night after church, she sorted them and put the white things to soak.
Within this small space, Hurston addresses a number of themes, such as the trials of femininity, which she explores with compelling and efficient symbolism. Originally published in , it is nuanced and eloquently compact, with Hurston maximizing each word, object, character, and plot point to create an impassioned and enlightening narrative. Hurston also proves herself every bit as capable as Mark Twain with regards to representing regional dialects and individual speech patterns, challenging the elitism of prescribed language and grammatical rules by representing an authentic dialect. This is demonstrated when her husband, Sykes, defines her in strictly physical terms. In this way, both Sykes and even those who sympathize with Delia, frame women in terms of their physicality. This is reinforced in more subtle ways as well.
Sweat is a short story by the American writer Zora Neale Hurston, first published in The story revolves around a washerwoman and her unemployed.
basic francis chan discussion questions
17 thoughts on ““Sweat” — Zora Neale Hurston”
The first line of "Sweat" is concise and introduces us to a very specific and important part of the story: the setting. We learn that the protagonist, Delia Jones, is a washwoman and that her husband, Sykes, has disappeared with her horse and cart. In the middle of sorting clothes, "something long, round, limp and black fell upon [Delia's] shoulders and slithered to the floor beside her" 3. No, it's not a snake her worst fear , but Sykes's bullwhip. He berates her for bringing 'white folks' clothes into the house and tells her to quit working. When she doesn't, he kicks the clothes around. This guy sounds like a real joy to be around, doesn't he?
Sweat is a short story by the American writer Zora Neale Hurston , first published in Robert E. Hemenway, the Chancellor of University of Kansas and the author of a biography of Zora Neale Hurston, praised Sweat as "a remarkable work, her best fiction of the period". Delia is a washerwoman who works long hours in a small Central Florida village. Her husband Sykes does not work, yet he resents that Delia cleans "white folks'" clothes in their home. Sykes scares his wife of fifteen years by using her fear of snakes.