March is the month of the woman, when spring brings forth new beginnings and birth a new season supporting constant growth and life, just as women do. In light of March being Women’s History Month, I decided to research different women artists and stumbled upon one I was already quite familiar with.
I am no stranger to Zora Neale Hurston’s work, specifically her poetry, and when I ran across her short story “Sweat”, I instantly felt the need to write about it. “Sweat” is an ironic story where what has been said will come back to bite you in the end. It is a story of faith, culture, and a spotlight on many issues women faced during the time it was written.
“Sweat” was written in 1926 during a time where women were seen as no more than a caterer and housewife, made to serve their husbands and birth children. Contrary to this, in the story ,the wife, Delia Jones, and husband, Skyes, had been married for 15 years and had no children. I felt this was because of the hidden hatred developed overtime by the two characters.
Also a contrary to the housewife and breadwinner stereotype, Delia was the breadwinner of the house as a washerwoman and Skyes was unemployed. Though Skyes was unemployed, he still found time to entertain and maintain his mistress’ lifestyle and be seen as the “big man” of the town. There were numerous times where his mistress would even wait for him outside of Delia’s home showcasing the ultimate disrespect.
Delia, though somewhat phased by this, did not allow this to break her, instead Delia stood by her faith and did what she was always known to do, sweat, work and pray.
Running across the story, I had many speculations of what it could be about, but after reading it, I understood the action of sweating to represent the frustration Delia felt within her marriage, how much she worked (often overworked) and even the turmoil she would face with the abuse within her marriage.
The days of Delia’s abuse and suffering of her husband’s infidelity would end once a snake is brought into their shared home by Skyes. Unknown to him at the time, the conjuring of chaos would be the cause of his very demise. I will not explain the plot of the story nor summarize it because I feel that this is a good read and should be experienced first hand by the reader.
I encourage anyone who reads this blog to read this short story, it is no more than 15 pages and can be found online. Reading “Sweat” will take no more than 30 minutes of your time.
“Sweat” is a well-rounded story with a high climax and satisfying ending. It features the conflict of an abusive marriage, women’s struggles, and infidelity. It also features a display of broken stereotypes that challenge the way of the times.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed reading this and hope you will do the same. If you do decide to do so, please let me know how you feel about it in the comments.
Back to the bookshelf,