‘Sweat’ is an early feminist short story by Harlem Renaissance writer, Zora Neale Hurston. This pocket-sized tale presents the contrasting lives of a married couple: the sweat and toil of Delia and the leisure and privilege of her husband, Sykes.
Delia works incredibly long hours as a washerwoman, making sure that she earns enough to pay rent for her and her husband’s home, while also ensuring the house is clean and there is food on the table. Her husband, Sykes, is unemployed, abusive, and having an affair. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that both Delia and Sykes want their relationship to end, but Sykes is willing to go to horrific measures to ensure she is out of his life for good.
Zora Neale Hurston presents the lack of job opportunities for Black men in the South following the American civil war, and she investigates the psychological impact of a man at that time having to financially depend on his wife. Sykes resorts to abusing Delia because it is the only way he can assert his dominance. Hurston explores early feminist ideals and ensures her work features characters who are strong Black women.
First published in 1926, ‘Sweat’ is now in a brand new pocket-sized edition featuring an introductory essay on the Harlem Renaissance, and is a brilliant read for those interested in early feminist writings.