English Class Research Paper on the Short Story Sweat

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William Eaves

The Traps of Society
All through literature and stories, words and characters will always represent different meanings and symbols. Readers will continue to venture deeper and deeper into the meanings of the words a writer puts on paper. The writer of the story may not even have a deeper meaning to the writing but we as humans have a need to explore. The short story known as “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston may also be one of those types of stories. The short English literature story “Sweat,” written by Zora Neale Hurston, shows Sykes as the husband of the leading character Delia in the story. During the story it seems as though Sykes gets easily upset and angered at his wife Delia.  Sykes takes his frustration out on Delia all throughout the story by hurting her physically, cheating with another woman, and teasing her with one of her biggest frights, which are snakes.  Even though Sykes’ behavior should not be accepted or followed, he possibly could show signs of a mental problem that is not fully addressed or dug into during the story. Sykes may also feel threatened because Delia is the sole provider of the house. He wants to feel as if he still has the “man” power and control over the marriage. More often than once he tries to take Delia and make her feel lesser to him as he feels it should be. Sykes shows his want to be in control at the very start of the story.  Delia begins by trying to start her job washing clothes for what is assumed in the story mostly white townspeople.  Sykes immediately starts to scream at Delia for one, working on Sunday and two for washing clothes for the mostly white townspeople.  Delia ignores him and his yelling while continuing to sort the laundry.  Sykes not one to be easily ignored, specifically by his wife, reacts to her quietness by tell her, “Ah aint gointer have it in mah house.  Don’t gimme no lip neither, else Ah’ll throw ‘em out and put mah fist up side yo head to boot” (Hurston 408).  Sykes will then start his acts of violence because Delia will not cooperate as he wants. By threatening her and overpowering her, this makes Sykes` feel as if he has put power back into his hands and is once again in total domination and control as he probably feels a man should be.            

 During this time many women may have backed down after being yelled at or threatened by their husbands but Delia did not back down however. She took a stand against Sykes by saying to him,“Mah tub of suds is filled yo’ belly with vittles more than yo’ hands is filled it.  Mah sweat is done paid for this house and Ah reckon Ah kin keep on sweatin’ in it” (Hurston 408). In the story the reader can almost tell and feel that Sykes also does not want to be reminded that he was unsuccessful in making a complete family or the fact that he was unsuccessful to acquire care and supply on behalf of his family. Betty Nosam writes in the book, “Sweat, Looking for a Man`s place”, “In Sweat, the husband named Sykes is frequently exposed to his let down and failures to provide for his family, his wife by her recurring talks of ‘her’ carriage, pony, other physical items” (Nosam 66).  Hollering, screaming and yelling all seem to fail, which will make Sykes feel the need to resort to other means of making Delia listen, violence.  All Through the story Sykes will be threatening Delia and informing her that he will hit her physically in one way or another. Author of the book, forming a Straight punch with a curved fist, Loren Bruckheimer, will explain how, “Zora Neale Hurston uses descriptions of the whip to propose a people of manliness expressed in an over powering nature and deeply seeded in ethnic tyranny” (Bruckheimer 44).  This would imply that Sykes hits Delia only because the only way of manliness that he has known is the kind that the white townsmen seem to portray.  

During the times when white males beat African Americans, the white males would have complete control and would appear better. This...
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