4 March 2013
One theme among five stories included in chapter eleven was the power struggle between characters, either within themselves or among other characters. Power is somewhat of an elusive concept in which it can take many forms. The characters within this chapter exhibit a wide spectrum of power including the power achieved through independence and feelings of empowerment, the corruption that may coincide in great power, or the illusion of power. In the first story, titled Sweat, the character Delia and her broke marriage to Sykes is introduced. It is no surprise to learn that Sykes is having an affair with another woman, an affair which he flaunts around town. In the following excerpt one of the neighbors speculates on Sykes’ treatment of Delia. “There’s plenty of men dat takes a wife lak dey do a joint uh sugar cane. It’s round, juicy, an’ sweet when dey gits it. But dey squeeze an grind, squeeze an grind an’ wring tell dey wring every drop uh pleasure dat’s in ‘em out. When dey’s satisfied dat det is wrung dry, dey treats ‘em jes’ lak dey do a cane-chew. Dey thows ‘em away.” (Hurston 425) Delia is a hard worker and the sole breadwinner between the two due to her husband’s insufferable spending on his mistress. Delia grows sick of her husband’s cruelty and finally bursts “that ole snaggle-toothed black woman you runnin’ with ain’t comin heah to pile up on mah sweat and blood. You ain’t paid for nothin’ on this place, and Ah’m gointer stay right heah till Ah’m toted out foot foremost” (424). At times like this Delia’s defiance takes Sykes by surprise because he had grown accustomed to her submission.
In an attempt to regain power in his marriage Sykes brings home Delia’s greatest fear: a snake. Delia’s fear of snakes is so extreme that she can’t even stand the sight of earthworms. Because of Delia’s late outbursts, Sykes felt uneasy about her newly erupted strength and if he could no longer scare her through his own threats then he knew what would render her powerless. This is especially heinous of Syke’s because Delia consistently states how she deserves their house. So the fact that Sykes brought a rattlesnake to induce fear and anxiety within her in her own home is all the more cruel. In the end though, it is this last act of abuse towards Delia that loosens Sykes’ power grip on the relationship. The rattlesnake planted to kill Delia’s feelings of empowerment ends up biting and killing Sykes.
In Katie Chopin’s The Story of an Hour news is broken to young wife, Mrs. Mallard, that her husband Brently Mallard was killed in a railroad accident. “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble” (Chopin 415) so her sister, Josephine, was cautious when breaking the awful news. Not surprisingly Mrs. Mallard is devastated. Yet, after a moment of silent sobbing spent in a private room, she began to whisper “free, free, free!” (416). She knew that her sadness would return “but she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin 416). According to the introductory information provided by the text on the author Chopin, it is said that like the female writers she looked up to at the time Chopin used “hard-eyed observation” and “passion for telling unpleasant truths” (Kennedy 121). Though Mrs. Mallard admits that Brently treated her kindly, that “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” . The death of Brently means freedom to Mrs. Mallard. She gains the power of independence and so “she would live for herself” (416). This may be one of the truths Chopin speaks of. Even the kindest marriages are inherently oppressive in this era. Although Mrs. Mallard ultimately dies from all of the excitement of this newfound empowerment, her last moments are filled with presumably...