Cheryl Wall, Introduction to "Sweat" (1997)
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
- 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"
- 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"
- 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" (14)?
- 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).