An Analysis of Zora Neale Hurston's "Sweat".
Zora Neale Hurston's "Sweat" is a short story overflowing with moral and religious parallels. This story is about Delia an African American working woman in the Deep South and how she clings to her faith in God to see her through the hardships caused by her unfaithful and abusive husband. Throughout this story there is religious symbolism that characterizes Delia and Sykes as two people on opposite ends of the moral spectrum; however, they are bound by marital vows that have lost their meaning.
Delia is a hard working woman who uses her faith in God to guide and protect her from her husband's relentless physical and emotional abuse. From the very beginning, she represents diligence, humbleness, and virtuosity. Delia is depicted as being physically weak but, as having extreme spiritual strength. Delia finds herself stuck in an unbearable marriage. Her husband, Sykes, mistreats her and is unfaithful. After being married to Sykes for fifteen years, Delia has lost all hope in the marriage. The countless beatings, infidelity, and emotional abuse have brought her over the edge. .
Sykes, Delia's husband, is her exact opposite. Sykes seems to oppose Delia on his every word and action. He is physically and emotionally abusive toward his wife and adulterous. Sykes is physically strong; however, he does not have virtue or faith in God. Delia has spiritual strength which overcomes her husband's abusive attitude in the end.
In the beginning of the story, Sykes throws his bull whip at Delia. The whip can easily be initially mistaken for a snake, which foreshadows the arrival of the snake later in the story. Sykes deliberately brings a snake into the house although he knows Delia has a phobia of snakes. If Delia represents good, then Sykes represents evil, and could be seen as the devil. Delia refers to both Sykes and the snake as devilish figures.
Sykes" own abusive actions throughout the story are his downfall in the end.