The Theme Of Good Vs. Evil In Zora Neale Hurston's Sweat

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Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” depicts the plight of Delia Jones, a Southern black woman married to the abusive, adulterous Sykes. After many years of physical and emotional abuse, Delia refuses to subject herself to her husband’s malevolence anymore. Hurston illustrates the theme of good vs. evil through Delia and Sykes. Delia and Sykes Jones are two people on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Delia represents good and virtue; Sykes, evil and vice. Hurston achieves the theme good vs. evil through her use of plot, dialogue, and symbolic imagery. Throughout the text, Delia is associated with symbols of virtue and purity. From the beginning, Delia is introduced as a hard-working, humble, church-going woman. She diligently hand-washes laundry …show more content…

evil. Delia’s sweat represents the poisons of the social system and of the suffering she endured because of her husband. In the story, while pondering her life and marriage, she thinks about how her “flowers had long ago been drowned in the salty stream that had been pressed from her heart. Her tears, her sweat, her blood.” This relates Delia’s sweat and poison that killed her flowers. The flowers that Delia planted—full of love, youth, and innocence—symbolizes her new marriage with Sykes—but when Sykes begins to abuse her, she starts to sweat. This sweat tainted and killed her flowers and her marriage. Because Delia releases sweat—the poisons of the social system—from her body, she remains pure; the poison does not infect her. Sykes, on the other hand, is possessed by evil because as a lazy, philandering husband, he does not sweat, so this toxin contaminates his soul and eventually kills him. Thus, the title “sweat” illustrates the struggles Delia survived because she was ultimately good and the poisons Sykes died from because he was ultimately …show more content…

evil because she conveys that ultimately good triumphs. The ending of the story shows Delia peacefully sitting under a Chinaberry tree while leaving her husband to die inside the house. While this image evokes the question of whether Delia’s inaction was right or wrong, the last two sentences of the story, “Orlando with its doctors was too far...she knew the cold river was creeping up and up to extinguish the eye which must know by now she knew” rationalizes that Delia’s inaction was justified. Even if Delia did help by bringing Sykes to the doctors, Sykes would have died nonetheless. Also, Sykes got what he deserved—punishment by his own evil plotting. His nefarious intentions of frightening Delia into leaving the house so his mistress can move in or perhaps even to kill her resulted in his own death. By letting Sykes die alone, Delia is allowing the part of her that still loves him to die with him. In this way, Delia can now be free from Sykes’

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