The short story “Sweat,” by Zora Neale Hurston, seems to show a typical example of a bad marriage between an abusive husband and a hardworking wife. Hurston uses foreshadowing and irony to demonstrate the disintegrated relationship between the abusive husband and the diligent wife. Throughout the story, it becomes obvious that the husband does not respect his wife.
Hurston shows how the main antagonists which are the abusive husband go out of his way to make sure his wife gets in harm’s way by any means.
The use of Hurston irony shows how Sonner or later the antagonist is going to get what he reaps. From the very beginning of the story the reader can see how abusive and disrespectful Sykes the husband is towards his wife Delia Jones. It was a Sunday night after Delia came from church when she was sorting the laundry for the white people that she works for when she was present with the one thing she fears “… something long, round, limp and black fell upon her shoulders and slithered to the floor beside her.
A great terror took hold of her. It softened her knees and dried her mouth so that it was a full minute before she could cry out or move. Then she saw that it was the big bullwhip her husband liked to carry when he drove. She lifted her eyes to the door and saw him standing there bent over with laughter at her fright. She screamed at him.
“Sykes, what you throw at whip on me like dat? You know it would skeer me–looks just like a snake, an’ you know how skeered Ah is of snakes. Course Ah knew it! That’s how come Ah has done it.”
He slapped his leg with his hand and almost rolled on the ground in his mirth. “If you such a big fool dat you got to have a fit over an earthworm or a string, Ah don’t keep how bad Ah skeer you.” when Sykes bullwhip is mistaken for a snake it put a lot of terror into Delia and Sykes find it to be very funny to watch, Sykes gets enjoyment in torturing his wife.
This marriage is very abusive due to the fact that the main antagonist the husband Sykes is very ignorant and insecure because he feel as if Delia is taking his masculinity for the simple fact that Delia is the breadwinner in the marriage she is the only working and paying all the bills. So, Sykes wants to insert power into Delia by scaring her with certain items to show her he is the one with the upper hand in the marriage. Hurston uses a lot of symbolism in the story.
Sykes dying by the bite of the snake is symbolic because it was introduced at the beginning of the story as the object he uses to torment Delia. The snake is the viciousness that Sykes possesses and which he has put into the relationship for 15 years. The snake symbolizes karma. The very tool used to torment and attempt to murder Delia, turns and attacks the antagonist.
The night Sykes scares Delia goes to bed and states ” Oh well, whatever goes over the Devil’s back, is got to come under his belly. Sometime or ruther, Sykes, like everybody else, is gointer reap his sowing.” Hurston now shows the reader that Sykes is going to get what he reaps.
In the use of irony what comes around goes around is a good motto to describe the antagonist Sykes. Many of the town men see how horrible Sykes treats his hardworking wife. The men in the town talk about how they dislike Sykes for the way he treats his hardworking wife. How they really despise him for walking around with the ugly fat women and cheating right in front of his face of his wife the townsmen stated “We oughter take Syke an’ dat stray ‘oman uh his’n down in Lake Howell swamp an’ lay on de rawhide till they cain’t say Lawd a’ mussy.”… we oughter kill ‘im,” Old Man Anderson advised”.
It seems as if Hurston shows the readers yet again of how sooner or later that Sykes is going to get the well-deserved death that he is longing ng for. But when Sykes brings home that snake it was foreshadowing his own death.
Hurston also shows how Sykes will portray his own death. In the same line he replies to Delia when she asked him to remove the snake from the house since she is very of the snake being in the kitchen. Sykes reply to Delia request was “Ah aint gut tuh do nuthin’ uh de kin’–fact is Ah aint got tuh do nothin’ but die”.
Sykes find it very amusing and funny to hear hus wife in distress about a snake that she does not want in her house Sykes simply just ignores her request. This is the most ironic part of the story because he stated rather die than give Delia the satisfaction of removing the snake. The same snake that Sykes put in his kitchen to murder his wife will be the same to turn around and murder him.