The Role of Societal Norms on African American Relationships
In society, a relationship between man and woman has always taken on the structure of the male being the breadwinner. Zora Neale Hurston provides an insight that challenges both ends of that societal norm. In the short story “Guilded Six Bits”, Hurston upholds the norm in her depiction of two newlyweds, Missie May and Joe. In this relationship, Joe is the proud breadwinner of the family and his wife fully embraces his role. In Hurston’s “Sweat”, he relationship between Delia Jones and her husband, Sykes, Hurston utilizes the wife as the main source of income for the household. Within both stories, Hurston accurately gets the point across that the male is expected to be the financial support of the household. As a result of the time period, Hurston’s manipulation of the common marriage provides support to how important the woman is to the household, and that she can be more than dead weight in the marriage. Also Hurston creates room to view the negative sides of both male and female in a relationship. In “Sweat” she stereotypes the black man as lazy and lacking ambition. In “Gilded Six Bits” while the african american man is loving, he is also insecure about his place in the world.
Hurston places Delia Jones at the front of the relationship from the very beginning on the short story. She introduces Delia as Delia Jones, while introducing Sykes by only his first name. This conveys the thought that Sykes’ importance in the marriage is limited or insufficient, as a married man and woman are usually spoke of in the same breath, or with the husband’s name first. It is clear that Delia is much more than a housewife by how she organizes her duties as a washwoman along with her dedication of working late into Sunday nights. This act draws
attention as to how Delia breaks the constraints of the housewife societal role that has been placed upon her. Sykes’ character attempts to continually put Delia...
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