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The Withered Arm and Sweat Essay

When the village men Walter Thomas and Joe Clarke were gossiping about Delia and Sykes on pages 42-43, their conversation was sympathetic towards Delia. The men discussed that “Hot or col, rain or shine… Delia carries ’em an’ fetches ’em on Sat’day. She better if she wanter eat… Sykes Jones ain’t wuth de shot an’ powder hit would tek tuh kill ’em”. Their conversation shows that they do not see Sykes as anything (worthless and useless). On page 43 Walter said, “It’s too bad, too, cause she wuz a right pretty… Ah’d uh mah’ied huh mahself if he hadnter beat me to it”.

It seems as if he is jealous that Sykes got Delia when he wanted her and he dislikes Sykes even more for the fact that Sykes abuses her. In both stories, the portrayal of the men reflects on the contexts in which the stories were written. One of the things that affected the men’s portrayal in the stories were society. Both Framer Lodge and Sykes had the upper hand in situations, and they caused distress to the women; Farmer Lodge by not taking care of Rhoda and his son and the gloomy behaviour when Gertrude had her withered arm, and Sykes by abusing Delia.

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Due to the times at which both stories were written, this type of behaviour from men was common and accepted by women. It was disregarded as walking out on your husband because you are there to please him, just as Gertrude was doing by going to extreme measures to cure her arm as Farmer Lodge was so impressed by looks and just as Delia was doing by working her ‘sweat and blood’ to keep Sykes alive and fed. The society in which Sykes and Delia was in made Sykes isolated because he was black, so when he came home he felt powerful by doing those thing to Delia as he is not powerful when he goes out due to the ‘white on black’ situation.

Wealth was a factor, which affected the portrayal of both men. Farmer Lodge was an upper class man with pride, and this pride led him to show of his externals e. g. Gertrude and his business rather than to be content with his internals and look after his offspring. The same applied to Sykes, because he was not working and Delia brought all the money home he felt powerful and proud of the fact he has the upper hand and this made him act ruthlessly towards Delia.

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