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Zora Neale Hurstons short story Sweat is filled with many moral and religious symbols. This story is about a common black, hardworking woman in the South and how she clings to her faith in God to see her through the hardships caused by her unfaithful and abusive husband. Throughout this story there is religious symbolism that illustrates how Delia and Sykes Jones are two people on opposite ends of the moral scale, yet tied to each other by marital vows that no longer depict their love for one another. Delia Jones is a hard workingwoman who uses her faith in God to guide and protect her from her husband's harsh physical and emotional abuse. From the very beginning of the story, Delia shows how she takes pride in her work, her meek personality, and her strong faith in God. Delia is shown as being physically weak from many years of hard work and abuse from Sykes, yet she is spiritually strong.
Throughout the story we read about her worn hands and knees, and the physical beauty that she once possessed. Completely opposite of Delia's character is her husband, Sykes. Sykes Jones seems to be against Delia in his every word and action. He is physically abusive toward his wife, non-virtuous in that he is disloyal, and he takes advantage of Delia's hard work by spending the money that she makes on his fat girlfriend Bertha.
While Sykes is physically strong and has no faith in God, Delia's strength lies in her religion and modest patience of her husband, which proves, in the end, to win out over his monstrous strength and abusive attitude. Certain objects and situations in the story suggest the influence of religion. The white clothes Delia washes in the story are symbolic of her character. White represents her worth and saintly tendencies as she respectfully tolerates Sykes' torture. The religious connection of snakes and evil is established in two instances in this story. Sykes at one point uses a whip to scare Delia by rubbing it on her and making her think it was a snake.
This is when we first learn how deathly afraid of snakes Delia is. She screams, Sykes, why you throw dat whip on me like dat? You know it would see melons just like a snake, an you knows how seemed Ah is of snakes. Also, later in the story, Sykes places a real snake just outside the door of their house in a soapbox for the sole purpose of scaring Delia. These two examples could be seen as a biblical insinuation as in the story of Adam and Eve when Satan took the form of a snake. The symbolism of snakes in "Sweat" cleverly illustrates Sykes as being an evil antagonist character.
The pattern of good vs. evil in this story winds down to a well-developed and clever conclusion. Sykes' own abusive actions throughout the story wind up being his downfall. In the end, when the snake that Sykes uses to scare Delia gets loose and bites him, the sun rises steadily during his dying process.
This sunrise is symbolic of Delia's freedom from Sykes and all the evil and negative things he represents. When Sykes is dead, the sun has finally risen and Delia gets the independence that she deserves.
Free research essays on topics related to: hard work, delia, snake, sykes, faith in god
Research essay sample on Zora Neale Hurston Short Story Sweat Religious Symbols