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The title of this story, ‘Sweat,’ has been used to reflect the intensity of hard labor and the continuous prayers of Delia Jones. In the fifteen years in which Delia and her husband Sykes Jones have been married, Delia has remained hard working. She collects clothes belonging to white people, sorts them, and washes them before delivering them back to their owners. Since her husband does not work at all, Delia feeds her husband and also finances his extravagant lifestyle. Through her hard work, she has been able to buy a home and planted trees and flowers. It was very lovely in her eyes, and she planned to use it in her old days. On the other hand, the setting of the story is during the summer season in Florida. The temperature is so high that the men chewing cane do not fling the cane-chews as they are accustomed to. Nonetheless, Delia Jones keeps working tirelessly in this extreme weather.

Characters in the Story

Delia Jones

This story is mainly centered around Delia Jones. She is a black woman who works really hard to earn a living. She washes clothes for white folk. Though she married her husband when she was still very beautiful, and in fact, married him because of love, she has had to fend for herself so much that she has even lost her beauty. On top of all this, her husband keeps abusing her, and she has turned to Christianity for solace. She is meek, but in an instance where she gets provoked by her husband, we can see her defending herself. She has a very profound fear for snakes, and Sykes Jones constantly uses this fear of hers to scare her.

Sykes Jones

Sykes is very lazy and does not take care of her wife. He is also violent and abuses her wife physically, aside from the emotional torment. He is unfaithful in the marriage and soon marries a mistress Bertha. He wants to hurt Delia and posses her house, so he brings a rattlesnake to the house, but instead of hurting Delia, it kills him.

Joe Clarke

He owns the village shop. He is unhappy about the way Delia is treated by Sykes and gives a metaphor of the way some men wring the good out of women and throw them away, just like they will chew sugarcane and take away the sweetness before throwing the cane-chews away.


She has been brought to the town by Sykes as his mistress. She has found favor in the eyes of Sykes than has Delia, though many people consider her ugly.

Prayers in this Story

Prayers in This Story include when just before sleeping, Delia prays that her husband reaps the fruits of his abusive nature. Delia also asks God to have mercy on her when Sykes brings a snake to scare her away from her home. She is determined to fight for her home.

Themes in the Story

The main theme in this story is that of good against evil. It emphasizes the fact that good triumphs over evil at the tail end of things. Delia is hardworking and takes care of her husband. Her husband, on the other hand, abuses her and wants to chase her out of her house, but he gets killed by the snake he intended to use to chase Delia.



At the end of this story, Sykes Jones is killed by the snake he brought to scare Delia. At last, Delia is free from oppression.




Hurston, Z. N. (1997). Sweat. Rutgers University Press.










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