"Sweat": Written by Zora Neale Hurston / Edition 1

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Now frequently anthologized, Zora Neale Hurston's short story "Sweat" was first published in Fire!!, a legendary literary magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, whose sole issue appeared in November 1926. In "Sweat" Hurston claimed the voice that animates her mature fiction, notably the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God; the themes of marital conflict and the development of spiritual consciousness were introduced as well. "Sweat" exemplifies Hurston's lifelong concern with women's relation to language and the literary possibilities of the black vernacular.

This casebook for this story includes an introduction by the editor; a chronology of the author's life; the authoritative text of "Sweat"; and a second story, "The Gilded Six-Bits." Published in 1932, this second story was written after Hurston had spent years conducting fieldwork in the southern United States. The volume also includes Hurston's groundbreaking 1934 essay, "Characteristics of Negro Expressionism," and excerpts from her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. An article by folklorist Roger Abrahams, along with selected blues and spirituals, provide additional cultural contexts for the story. Critical commentary comes from Alice Walker, who led the recovery of Hurston's work in the 1970s, Robert E. Hemenway, Hengry Louis Gates Jr., Gayl Jones, John Lowe, Kathryn Lee Seidel, and Mary Helen Washington.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813523163
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 246
  • Sales rank: 1,474,630
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Cheryl Wall is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University. She is the editor of Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women (Rutgers University Press) and the author of Women of Letters of the Harlem Renaissance.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Chronology 21
"Sweat" 25
Background to the Story
Research 43
Characteristics of Negro Expression 55
Negotiating Respect: Patterns of Presentation among Black Women 73
A Selection of Blues and Spirituals 107
Genesis 1-3 113
Zora Neale Hurston and the Speakerly Text 119
The Gilded Six-Bits 135
Critical Essays
From Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography 149
Breaking out of the Conventions of Dialect 153
The Artist in the Kitchen: The Economics of Creativity in Hurston's "Sweat" 169
From Jump at the Sun: Zora Neale Hurston's Cosmic Comedy 183
"I Love the Way Janie Crawford Left Her Husbands": Zora Neale Hurston's Emergent Female Hero 193
Looking for Zora 211
Selected Bibliography 231
Permissions 233
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2001

    Sweat, Blood, and Prayers: A Look at Zora Neale Hurston's 'Sweat'

    In Zora Neale Hurston's 'Sweat' Hurston looks at the life of Delia, an abused southern housewife and her struggle to overcome her husband Sykes' emotional and physical abuse. Throughout the story, it is evident that Delia prides herself in two main things: her hard work, and her Christianity, both of which are attacked by the sadistic Sykes. It is Delia's faith that keeps her steadfast in her stand against her husband. Delia believes that Sykes 'will reap what he sows', and in the irony-filled ending, that is exactly the case. This story is absolutely heart wrenching to read because Hurston really makes the reader see and feel the abuse she is heavy laden with. Hurston makes Biblical references graphically referring Delia as a parallel to Christ and his sufferings. This story is filled with symbolism and ends with a near tear-jerking twist of events that leaves the reader and Delia happy and ultimately satisfied.

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