menu

What Is the Theme of "Sweat" by Zora N. Hurston?


Being an impoverished African-American woman in the 1920s didn't leave you with many choices. In Zora Neal Hurston's "Sweat," hard-working Delia is oppressed by her lazy, two-timing, abusive husband Sykes. Justice is served at the end of this harrowing tale of a woman trying to survive in some of the most challenging circumstances life has to offer.

Good Verus Evil

The primary theme of this story is one that has been around since the beginning of time -- good versus evil, God versus the devil, light versus dark. Delia comes down on the side of good, while Sykes represents evil. Like many stories with this theme, good ultimately triumphs. The story evokes the classic symbol of evil -- the snake -- when Sykes hides a rattlesnake in the white clothes in an attempt to kill Delia. The white clothes, meanwhile, symbolize goodness. A secondary theme of the story is that of oppression, as Delia is a person whose life is made difficult by her race, social standing and gender.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

Photo Credits
  • Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images