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Good Vs. Evil and Light Vs. Dark in Hurston's "sweat"

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Good vs. Evil and Light vs. Dark in Hurston's "Sweat"

The combat between Delia and Sykes, the two protagonists of the story, is a fantastic portrayal of good versus evil. Delia is the good in the relationship, who stays faithful to her husband always, and Sykes is pure evil, expending as much of his energy as possible toward driving Delia out of his life. Delia is also quite religious and takes a certain comfort in her church's community, (Wagner-Martin) yet Sykes has no care for this part of her life. To further emphasize this relationship, Hurston uses lightness and darkness to contrast the two opposite ends of the spectrum at which these characters stand.

Delia is clearly the quintessential image of good. She works very hard to earn money and "with her money she has bought the house" (Wagner-Martin) that her and Sykes live in. He "aint paid for nothin' on [the house]," (Hurston ) and even with the constant beating she received from Sykes over the past fifteen years of their marriage, she still tries her best to make it work. Sykes desperately tried to pick a fight with her one night yet she just put her head down and said, "Ah aint for no fuss t'night Sykes" ( ). "She had brought love to the union" ( ), and no matter how hard she tried it was just "too late now to hope for love" ( ).

Throughout the story, Delia is repeatedly referenced to with the color white. Symbolically speaking, white is most commonly related to characteristics of innocence, good, and purity. In other stories and movies, angels are always portrayed as being all white. One of the first times this white symbolism is seen in "Sweat" is when the reader gets introduced to Delia's job. She works as a wash-woman for white folks' clothes. This could mean for any color of clothing, but everytime the clothes are mentioned in the story only the white ones are spoken about. This especially happens when Sykes tries to mess up the pile of clothes on the floor that Delia is busy sorting. "He stepped roughly upon the whitest pile of things, kicking them helter-skelter as he crossed the room" ( ). The word whitest is used as a way to emphasize the purity of Delia's work and the fact that she always makes the clothes look so white. It is one of the things that Sykes cannot take away from her, which is partly the reason why she "[finds] happiness through her work" (Wagner-Martin).

Another reference to the color white comes later in the story when she comes home one night after a church-going adventure to Woodbridge. Before she throws back the lid of the hamper to do the laundry, Hurston describes it as standing by the "white iron bed" (Hurston ). This is quite significant because the classic picture of a white iron bed almost looks like a white thrown for a princess, with the only difference being that it is shaped for a bed. It signifies Delia's place of rest where she is able to find peace and comfort, at least until Sykes arrives. It also coincides with the goodness image of white, which Delia fits into.

Sykes, on the other hand, is a walking, cheating, yelling, beating, evil human being. He displays nothing but negativity toward Delia, dating all the way back to the beginning of their marriage, when "two months after the wedding, he [gave] her the first brutal beating" ( ) of many to come. As eluded to above, he also has no respect for her work. He even went so far as to say to her that he promised to God that "[he] aint gointer have it in [his] house," ( ) as if it was even his house to begin with. In addition to this, he is constantly cheating on her with a woman named Bertha. He prounces around town, buying her whatever she so desires, and "it [pleases] him for Delia to see" ( ). All of these things, however, do not even compare



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