Zora Neale Hurston`s “Sweat”

ZoraNeale Hurston’s “Sweat”

  1. This is an annotation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat.”

  2. The five phrases I have chosen are:

  1. “…she was a wash-woman.” (page 1, paragraph 1).

  2. “…You know it would skeer me–looks just like a snake, an` you knows how skeered Ah is of snakes.&quot (page 1, paragraph 5).

  3. “He stepped roughly upon the whitest pile of things, kicking them helter-skelter as he crossed the room.” (page 2, paragraph 2).

  4. “Mah tub of suds is filled yo` belly with vittles more times than yo` hands is filled it.” (page 2, paragraph 8).

  5. “He done beat huh `nough tuh kill three women, let `lone change they looks.&quot (page 3, paragraph 12)

  1. The theme is domestic violence and feminist victory

  2. The text derives coherence from the theme and the chronological flow of events.


Thestory discusses the plight of a mistreated woman by the name DeliaJones in an abusive marriage. She is the wife of Sykes, who has beenmistreating her for the last fifteen years of their marriage. Thesetting is in the US state town of Central Florida. The story waspublished in 1926. It is during the spring when snakes are moreprevalent. Sweat is a story that brings out the triumph of feminismthrough Delia Jones. She is a woman who comes to attain freedom fromher husband in an unexpected manner. Her husband, Sykes, despitehaving no income, decides to physically and mentally abuse his wifebecause of his mistress,Bertha.Sykes wants to scare Delia into leaving their home so that he canbring in his mistress. He plans to do this by capitalizing on hiswife’s fear of snakes to scare her into leaving their home. Hurstontalksabout domestic violence in households in this account. Sykes beatshis wife and takes her income “…he did not strike her as heusually did.” (2). In her writing, Hurston investigates thephysiological effects of an abusive marriage from a woman’sperspective. Delia is a good housewife who performs her householdtasks to please her husband, but he doesn`t appreciate it &quotAhbeen takin` in washin` for fifteen years.” (2). Her husband prefersa life of leisure, pleasure, and entitlement. She supports Sykesdespite him not having an income, yet he finds a way to pay for hismistress’s rent and dates at nightclubs. Sykes hatches a plan toscare Delia so that he can be free with his mistress Bertha. He plansto poison her with a rattlesnake by placing the snake in her clothesfor washing (8). Ironically, karma comes back to haunt him as he isthe one who gets fatally bitten in the neck by the same snake. Heends up crying to his wife for help. In response, Delia sits under aChinaberry tree and waits on her husband to die by ignoring hisdesperate calls for help (9).


Hurston,Zora Neale. Sweat. Literature: A Pocket Anthology. Fourth Edition.Edited by R. S. Gwynn. New York: Penguin, 2009