In this literary review, I want to review a short story I recently had the pleasure of reading. “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston has quickly become one of my favorite stories thus far in my repertoire or short stories read. Hurston’s use of original dialect within the dialogue, her vivid descriptions, and her unique telling of the relationship between the main characters, Sykes and Delia, make this story unique and full of a life.
Following the story of two people stuck in toxic matrimony, the interactions of Delia and her husband Sykes are depicted through the use of language and actions. With Sykes being verbally, mentally, and physically abusive towards Delia, he threw his hatred on her and never let up. Delia, stuck in the mindset of constantly loving your partner, she stayed with Sykes despite his cruel words and intentions. This story follows the last leg of their marriage. Sykes, tired of Delia and cheating with her plainly, abuses Delia and tortures her with her greatest fear, snakes. Disrupting her hard work as a washerwoman, Sykes brings a live snake into their house and uses it as leverage over Delia. With hopes that the snake would kill Delia, a turn of fate happened. Sykes ended up on the wrong side of his plan and ended up getting killed by the snake as Delia was peacefully sitting under a chinaberry tree as he died.
With symbolism being heavily instilled in the story, Hurston uses this symbolism to put a deeper meaning behind the entire story. What does it take for a woman who has given her all to stop? What does it take to turn love into hate?
I’ll take a pause here to say that these questions came up once I ended the story and analyzed its meaning. I do think there are more questions that can arise from this tale, but I thought these were most important.
In the midst of my analysis, I realized that the story was about gaining what you deserve. In terms of Delia, she gained her deserved peace. She gained peace from her abusive husband and the cruel words he threw at her. For 10-plus years, he changed her life for the worse and caused permanent damage to her mental state. As for Sykes, he gained his deserved punishment for the things he caused Delia.
You will always get what you deserve.
Through this story, Hurston expressed this message and emphasized on the reward of hard-earned work and sometimes sweat. This is why I like this story.
As the reader, you always root for the ones being put down. You always root for the underdog. Hurston giving Delia the peace she deserved ended the story completely. It gave the story a beginning, middle, and end.
I highly enjoyed the use of old, southern dialect. Hurston gave these characters life, down to the way they talk. The realism of the language and dialogue made the story feel real. It made it feel like it actually happened, which I appreciated very much.
Overall, I am in love with this story. I am in love with the depth of the message it tells. The characters captured me with their personalities and I admire the way Hurston wrote them out.
I often look at writing styles in comparison to my own, but I couldn’t find it in Hurston’s. I found a sense of longing for the authenticity within her writing. I long for the realism within her writing. As much as I have fallen in love with this story, I think I’ve fallen in love with Hurston as well. During her life, she wasn’t celebrated, but I will be sure that she is.
Here is the link to the story!