The story I have read is mainly about a woman, namely Delia who has happened to be the wife of a strict and tough man, Sykes, who has never missed the opportunity to beat her. Instead of being responsible for family he created, Sykes spent all his money on his own needs and entertainments. Therefore, Delia was the one who cared about the family, kept the house and earned money for life. She worked hard from day to day, sometimes even on religious holidays, after which she was severely criticized by her husband and even beaten sometimes. What was extremely cruel about his behavior, that not once had he brought snakes into the house in order to scare Delia to death by the only sight of them. Since the woman was afraid even of the small worms she was almost felt unconscious by the presence of snakes. However, once Delia had got fed up with the behavior of her husband and threatened to report about his cruel actions towards her to the local police. In order to get revenge and get rid of Delia, Sykes found the biggest snakes he could and brought them to their home hoping that the rattlesnake will poison his wife. For God’s sake, she has fled from the animal and somehow felt asleep. The story ends up with the Sykes screaming wildly and dying from the poison of the rattlesnake which bit him fatally in the neck. So that, he got into the trap he had created by his own hands. In response to his actions, Delia just sat motionlessly being indifferent to his pleas for help.
In my opinion, the most important and crucial for this novel are the relationships between husband and wife. Therefore, by means of this paper I would like to discuss the role of a woman in terms of the read story, the attitude of the husband and public to her as well as religion, race, and social issues that to some extend have an effect on the life of Delia as representative of the woman class in the society. In the main part, this essay will also deal with the discussion whether the actions of mentioned people and variety of issues have hardened Delia and made her rather tough woman without moral principles, faith and respect to others, or she has been resistant to all the challenges brought before her and remained the same faithful and decent woman as she was in her twenties.
The novel starts from the returning of Delia from the Church and her immediate recourse to the work after a sleepless night. As anyone can infer, she is extremely devoted to her religion, regardless of the fact that God very often forgets about her and lets her husband beat Delia. In addition, she is exceptionally hardworking person, which does not contribute in the best way to her outlook, making her hands, legs and body fat and full of muscles. Delia is not tender but she is well respected by the people of her town. What is more interesting, is that residents of the town treat her as an equal to them and even wonder how they can protect her from the abuses of husband and they do so even regardless of the fact that she has black skin. In my opinion, they are so concerned and behave respectfully due to the intrinsic decentness of their characters. They watch the injustice happening with a weak woman; the attractiveness fading away because of the often beating that happens to her and are trying to find the way to punish the wrongdoer. One of them even questions whether there is the law prohibiting such behavior of the husband. However, one of the men who took part in the conversation suggested that ‘there is no law on the earth that can make a man be decent if he is not’ (Hurston 5). In my opinion, it is one of the crucial ideas in this novel. According to its plot, Delia regardless of all the hardships that happened to her, including the betrayal of his husband with Bertha continues to be an honest member of the society, carrying out her duties and obligations, while at the same time her husband never behaved properly and was not considered to be nobleman. Indeed, I consider that the decentness of the character is something intrinsic, which is passed hereditary, and, therefore, no public opinion, punishment or fear of being executed could force the wrongdoer change his unmoral, illegal and abusive actions, while there is no need in punishments and sentencing for the people who are honest in the way of their behavior and relations with others.
The role of the woman in this novel seems to be the key one, since she was responsible for everything in her life: for husband, house, her well-being etc. Her life was full of duties and empty of rights and freedoms. Delia was overburdened with her work and, as usual, got nothing in return from her husband, who was too concerned about entertaining himself.
The most surprising while reading the novel is that Delia remains a woman regardless of everything bad that happened during her life. She is attending the Church, its mesas and relies on God in all life matters asking Him for help whenever she needs it. Therefore, even being repeatedly and roughly beaten by her husband, she does not give up on her faith, but remains the same in her attitude to religion. Furthermore, she is not deprived of feeling ashamed by the behavior of his husband. Perhaps, any other woman would become very strict, even sarcastic and complain about her husbands’ abuses to the police. But it is not the case for Delia. I consider that she would never give the access to her private matters to the curious public eye. She will rather be extremely patient and keep people in the dark as to her private life. At the end of the story we can see the glimpses of rebellious thoughts and actions of Delia when she threatens her husband to report about his misbehavior to the local authorities. In addition, she is scared to death by the sight of the unmoving rattlesnake. Her actions are emotional, sometimes irrational, testifying about the fact that little girl is still alive under the tough skin which has hardened after the years of monotonous day-to-day work. Finally, the feeling of attractiveness of beauty of this world is not unknown for her. Each effort aimed at improvement of her house has been made only by her. Being very big, strong, fat and not well-kept woman, she does her best to make the surrounding things look better to her. This contrast between inner beauty and outside unattractiveness can be well supported by the novel itself. According to the words of author, it was “Too late for everything except her little house. She had built it for her old days, and planted one by one the trees and flowers there. It was lovely to her, lovely” (Hurston 2). Regardless of all the difficulties the life has granted to her, by means of small plants Delia tried to make it a little bit better, to cheer up herself in any possible way, at the same time expressing her belonging to the category of unprotected and weak women seeking for help and relief. She did not give up on believing in better days.
Summing it all up, I would like to say that analyzed story shows an example of stoic woman, who remains the same after the years of hard work and cruel attitude towards her. Was it made on the purpose or unintentionally is unknown, but still it is a very good pattern of behavior during hardships and all of us should definitely follow it and remain decent people regardless of all the problems and challenges that are brought before us.
Carazo, Rachel. Feminism through Religion in Hurston’s “Sweat”. 2012. Online. Web. 25 Nov.2013.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. 1926. Online. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.