Themes And Symbolism In Sweat By Zora Neale Hurston

Superior Essays
Sweat Symbol Analysis
“Sweat”, by Zora Neale Hurston, is a short story that paints a clear picture on how sometimes a man belittles his wife and makes her seem worthless. What men do not know however, is that wives are mostly always smarter than their husbands, at least in this case. This story portrays an unemployed man with an employed wife that is insecure with the fact that his wife is the main provider in their household. Having to live with this, he makes her life a living hell. Three symbols and themes as well as the protagonist are strongly represented throughout “Sweat” as examples of confinement vs. freedom. The snake represents evil bringing in the theme of domestic abuse, clothing represents hard work with the theme of survival,
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Her husband Sykes, knows that so he throws a rubber whip on her wanting to scare her, insinuating the main symbol of the story, and the theme of domestic abuse. Sykes places a snake in the house in order to make Delia leave and have the house to himself and his lover Bertha. She pleads him to remove the snake by saying, “Syke, Ah wants you tuh to dat snake ‘way fum heah. You done starved me an’ Ah put up widcher, you done beat me an Ah took dat, but you done kilt all mah insides bringin dat varmint heah.” (Hurston 626). Delia defends herself, “she struck a defensive pose, which act surprised him greatly, coming from her. It cowed him and he did not strike her as he usually did”, (Hurston 622). Sykes controls Delia by striking her whenever he does not get his way, representing the domestic abuse that Delia goes through with Sykes. Near the end of the story, Sykes places the snake in Delia’s work clothing basket in hopes of having it kill her, but it does not. Instead, the snake just slithers out of the basket as Delia runs. The snake represents Delia’s fear of snakes and more fears to …show more content…
In “Sweat”, Delia is a frequent church goer making her a good Christian who is nice and forgives and forgets. Since Delia washes the white clothing, it “represents her saintly tendencies as she humbly tolerates Sykes’ torment”, (McLaughlin 1). Delia knows that her husband Sykes has a mistress, Bertha, and that he abuses Delia’s hard work by offering Delia’s house to Bertha as well as the fact that Delia’s money goes to paying the rent for the only place that would actually take Bertha in. Delia has to put up with a miserable life, and a husband that abuses and cheats on her all because she is a good Christian woman who does not believe in divorce. Delia also represents God-like ways through her fear of the snake. While the snake was represented as something that Delia was deathly afraid of, the snake actually ended up saving her life. Hurston incorporates the snake in “Sweat” to recall of the famous biblical story of Adam and Eve where a man is controlled by a snake. Much like Adam, Sykes thought that the snake would somehow get him something that he wanted, but would eventually backfire. In the biblical story however, Eve is punished just like Adam. In “Sweat”, Sykes’s punishment is Delia’s

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