Cheryl Wall, Introduction to "Sweat"
Part One (Go to Part Two )
Explain: "Her language was not so much invented as distilled from
the speech she had listened to as a child" (4).
Explain: "While racial injustice in the larger society informed
the conflicts represented here, they were more profoundly the conflicts
of the characters' interior lives" (6).
What is cultural relativity (besides being "the foundational
principle of anthropology" (7))?
Explain: "Despite the careful attention to setting, 'Sweat' transcends
the category of 'local color fiction'" (7).
Explain: "Delia's work is both an economic necessity and a psychological
threat to her husband Sykes" (8).
Explain: "Hurston was able to break free of the convention of
dialect, primarily because of her excellent ear for folk speech" (10) (See
also Gayl Jones's essay.)
Explain: "Sykes ultimately becomes a threat not so much to Delia's
person as to her soul" (11).
Explain: "If she is willing to return hate for hate, she will no longer
be bound by the commandments of her faith" (11).
Explain: "This moment of 'specifying' is equally an act of self-defense
and self-incrimination" (11).
What does "crossing Jordan" signify?
How does the marriage in "Gilded Six-Bits" invert the portrayal in "Sweat"?
How does the plot of "Six-Bits" reflect "archaic assumptions about gender"
Explain: "The bit of chain that remains attached to the coin is
a metonym of slavery, which in turn constituted the ultimate commodification
of human beings and disfigurement of relationships" (15).