Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” Essay
Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat”
Zora Neale Hurston’s story “Sweat” is filled with symbolism that includes depictions that are easily explained and some which require more thought. Hurston’s most recognizable symbol throughout the short story is the title, “Sweat.” She depicts Delia as having a strong work ethic and the hardship she experienced with making her relationship work. Another recognizable symbol would be the consistency of the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake is the focal point of the story since it ties the story together. Throughout “Sweat,” Hurston depicts Delia as a hardworking woman who is the provider for Sykes and herself. “Hot or col’, rain or shine, jes’ez reg’lar ez de weeks roll roun’ Delia carries ‘em an’ fetches ‘em on Sat’day.” (Hurston 532) Sweat is the result of Delia’s hard work and dedication in her life. Regardless of the situation, Delia showed pride in her work as a washwoman as her work ethic demonstrated. Delia’s laundry work also incorporates a symbol.
“He stepped roughly upon the whitest pile of things, kick them helter-skelter as he crossed the room.” (Hurston 531) She looks after and protects the laundry like it is her own. Since the laundry is the white folks and not hers, it shows Delia as an African American in a difficult time in history. It also refers “whitest pile of things” as Delia’s innocence and righteousness whereas Syke is malicious on making it dirty. The rattlesnake is considered the most recognized symbol in the story. “looks just like a snake, an’ you knows how skeered Ah is of snakes.” (Hurston 530)
From the beginning of the story to the end of the story the rattlesnake is considered to be evil like Syke. Syke had no remorse for the fear it caused for Delia and threatened her with violence. The snake symbolizes the evil that is associated with Syke’s behavior and demeanor. Throughout the story “Sweat,” Hurston used examples of symbolism as her main focal point. The climax is when Syke falls victim to his own wrongdoing. The rattlesnake that was intended for Delia, killed Syke instead. She would not be a victim Syke’s violent behavior anymore. It symbolizes a woman’s strengths and experiences due to her gender and color.
Hurston, Zora Neale. “Sweat.” Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. XJ. Kennedey and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. Longman, 01 January 2012. Print. Scott, Cynthia C. “Zora Neale Hurston’s Sweat: Character and Metaphor in the Short Story.” Yahoo! Voices. Yahoo Contributor Network, 10 July 2007. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. Print. Burke, Marion C. “Zora Neale Hurston’s Sweat and the Black Female Voice: The Perspective of the African-American Woman.” Student Pulse. Student Pulse, LLC, 2012. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. Print.