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Now frequently anthologized, Zora Neale Hurston's short story "Sweat" was first published in Firell, a legendary literary magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, whose sole issue appeared in November 1926. Among contributions by Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman, "Sweat" stood out both for its artistic accomplishment and its exploration of rural Southern black life. 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 black vernacular.
This casebook for the 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 Expression," and excerpts from her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. An article by folklorist Roger Abrahams provides additional cultural contexts for the story, as do selected blues and spirituals. Critical commentary comes from Alice Walker, who led the recovery of Hurston's work in the 1970s, Robert Hemenway, Henry Louis Gates, Gayl Jones, John Lowe, Kathryn Seidel, and Mary Helen Washington.
|Background to the Story|
|Characteristics of Negro Expression||55|
|Negotiating Respect: Patterns of Presentation among Black Women||73|
|A Selection of Blues and Spirituals||107|
|Zora Neale Hurston and the Speakerly Text||119|
|The Gilded Six-Bits||135|
|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|
Posted October 9, 2001
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.