Zora Neale Hurston's 'Sweat': Short Story Analysis

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In Zora Neale Hurston's "Sweat", there is more than one reference to white people. What is most significant about this fact is that there are no white people in the story, and none appear to reside within the town that the story takes place in. However, a careful analysis of this tale demonstrates the fact that despite a dearth of the physical presence of white people, they actually have a significant amount of power in this tale and over the characters and, indirectly, over their fates. White people have traditionally exercised power over African Americans, ever since the latter was enslaved by the former in United States in the early part of the 17th century. Hurston refers to white people in this particular story, therefore, as a manifestation of that power which seems all the more potent due to the fact that they are not present within it. The protagonist, Delia, who washes clothes for a living, has been able to buy a house largely due to her earnings from washing white people's clothes. The following quotation in which Delia's husband chides her for her occupation proves this point"¦"You ain't nothing but a hypocrite"¦sing"¦shout, then come home and wash white folks clothes on the Sabbath" (Hurston). This quotation proves the power that white people have in the story, since Delia labors on the Sabbath (something forbidden in Christianity) to ultimately assuage the laundry needs of white people. It is also significant that her doing so presents an opportunity for
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