Sweat, by Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” is a distressing tale of human struggle as it relates to women. The story commences with a hardworking black washwoman named Delia contently and peacefully folds laundry in her quiet home. Her placidity doesn’t last long when her abusive husband, Sykes, emerges just in time to put her back in her ill-treated place. Delia has been taken by this abuse for some fifteen years. She has lived with relentless beatings, adultery, even six-foot long venomous snakes put in places she requires to get to. Her husband’s vindictive acts of torment and the way he has selfishly utilized her can only be defined as malignant. In the end of this leaves the hardworking woman no choice but to make the most arduous decision of her…show more content…
Hurston’s use of as well as the vivid description of the bullwhip, that Sykes uses to frighten Delia with, does not only reflect the oppressive and evil nature of man, Sykes, towards women, Delia, but supplementally gives the reader insight to how the short story perceives men exhibiting similar oppressive traits as Sykes. As Delia contently folds cloths, Sykes creeps into the house and lays a bullwhip, resembling a snake, on Delia's shoulders, “Just then something long, round, limp and black fell upon her shoulders and slithered to the floor beside her.” (Hurston) This image surely is not coincidental. The fact that Hurston utilized a bullwhip as an object for Sykes to prevail in frightening Delia is an impeccable example of a form of oppression by way of intimidation. Moreover, during slavery bullwhips were habituated to discipline and maintain supremacy over slaves by brutal force. Similarly, in "Sweat", Hurston employed the bullwhip to reflect this very same conception. The double entendre in Hurston’s description of the bullwhip, “limp” and “weak” is a symbol for Sykes' need to “overcompensate” due to the emasculating position he is in as a dependent on his wife (Wohlpart). The patriarchal dynamic that Sykes endeavors to hold on to by berating Delia is to no prevail. At the end of the day, Delia is the
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