Free Essay about Conflicting Characters of Delia and Sykes Jones in Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston

Published: 2022-02-18 18:49:30
Free Essay about Conflicting Characters of Delia and Sykes Jones in Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Zora Neale Hurston Character analysis
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 914 words
8 min read
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The novel "Sweat" by Zora Neale Hurston is centered on two characters that are, Delia Jones and her husband, Sykes Jones. Delia is depicted as a hardworking woman that is entrapped in an unhappy and worse still abusive marriage. While sorting the laundry on a Sunday night, Delia's husband, Sykes, arrives and plays a dirty trick with his horsewhip ostensibly to scare Delia (Hurston 7). Sykes labels Delia hypocrite because she is working on a Sunday and issues a physical violence threat. In a swift turn of event, Delia put down her meekness and takes a defensive pose (Hurston 9). She highlights that her sweat has kept them going and perhaps taken aback by the unusual defensive pose taken by Delia; Sykes moves out of the house to spend the night with his mistress Bertha. While Delia is undertaking her normal routine of delivering the washed clothes, she overhears the village men lamenting about the bad character of her husband. Moreover, Sykes makes an effort to throw Delia out of the house by bringing a rattlesnake, which, in the end, fatally strikes him. The story is hinged on the characters of Delia and Sykes and, most critically, the consequential outcome of Syke's character.

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Despite being in an abusive marriage, Delia works hard to build and maintain her family. Delia has been exhibiting meekness in the marriage Sykes often leverage on that to physically abuse her in the marriage. Moreover, Delia is depicted as a mild woman who, despite knowing her husband, cheats on her with a mistress named Bertha; she continues to look forward to building a strong family. Notably, her meekness and mildness are premised on the fact that she was a woman, and in the 1920s, women were had deprived rights (Hurston 16). "Delia's habitual meekness seemed to slip from her shoulders like a blown scarf." (Hurston 18) This quote depicts the change in Delia's character is demonstrated when she takes a defensive pose when Sykes threatens her with physical violence. Sykes appears more surprised, Delia grabs the iron skillet to defend herself, and he flees as he was not used to Delia fighting back (Hurston 28). Notably, Delia embodies virtues that stem from religion, and she often goes to church every Sunday as she expresses the Christian belief that ultimately, her husband will be punished for his sins.

Sykes Jones is depicted as an embodiment of all the negative characters. He is unfaithful and abusive despite having a hardworking wife in Delia. He arrives in the house on a Sunday night, and instead of embracing his loving wife, he scares her with a horsewhip and is unapologetic about that (Hurston 2). Also, his cowardly character is depicted when he flees the situation after her hitherto meek wife, Delia, takes a defensive pose with an iron skillet. He seemed to have been deriving his physical abuse strength from the notion that women have no rights in society. Worse still, after fleeing the house, he goes to spend the night with his mistress, which depicts him as an unfaithful husband. She hardly cares about the emotional harm that his character poses to his wife and even proceeds to bring her mistress Bertha to the house. "She had brought love to the union, and he had brought a longing after the flesh." (Hurston 25) The quote demonstrates Delia's good intention and Syke's ill-motive of getting into the marriage.

Moreover, Sykes' behavior is universally viewed as unacceptable even by the village men. As Delia passes the town store, she hears a discussion of the village men castigating Sykes' physical abuse against her and his infidelity in the marriage (Hurston 52). Although they live in a poor black town, most people are not as hardworking as Delia. The village men could not comprehend why Sykes disrespects Delia that much and even contemplates punishing him together with his mistress. Additionally, Sykes embodies cruelty in his marriage, and this is demonstrated when he brings a rattlesnake in the house to scare Delia (Hurston 65). He intends to scare and ultimately drives Delia out of the house to live with his mistress Bertha. However, this proves consequential as the rattlesnake bites him so badly in the neck. Furthermore, Sykes demonstrated his cruelty by getting into an illicit affair with Delia to cause emotional harm to Delia, but she utilizes her Christian belief that Sykes will ultimately pay for his sins to soothe her and keep her emotionally withdrawn from the relationship.

In conclusion, the novel highlights two conflicting characters where Delia exhibits a loving and hardworking character, while her husband demonstrates cruelty, unfaithfulness, and cowardice. Delia appears to have defied the social setting of the poor black town by working hard to build a strong marriage. However, her husband is depicted as a cruel man who hardly appreciates the fact that he got a hardworking wife and even proceeded to cheat on her. It is worth noting that Delia depicted great courage by rising to defend herself from the physical abuse meted against her by her husband. Sykes was hell-bent on punishing Delia by being unfaithful to her in the marriage, and this behavior remains unacceptable even among the village men who condemned his actions. More importantly, the actions of Sykes ultimately lead to his downfall when he was fatally bitten by the rattlesnake he had brought to scare and drive away Delia away from home.


Work Cited

Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. Rutgers University Press, 1997, pp. 2-79.

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