English lOA Ms Beioin 10-5-05 When a person is put in a situation by runout


English 10A
Ms. Beloin
When a person is put in a situation to either save themselves or another person, most
would save their own lives. A person is even more likely to save themselves if he or she is
regularly abused and harassed by this other person. This is the case in Zora Neaie Hurston's short
story, "Sweat." Delia, the main character, has the option of helping her husband, Sykes, when he
is bitten by a rattlesnake. Because of Delia's husband's actions, she is morally justified in not
coming to his aid.
Delia is morally justified for not coming to her husband's aid because he is physically
abusive to her. When two people are married, they take marriage vows "to love and cherish"
each other for their entire lives. Sykes does not stick to his vows. After two months of being
married, Sykes gave Delia "the first brutal beating" (454-455). This beating was not the only one
that Sykes gave to Delia. He hit her a lot and Delia came'to expect him to strike her all of the
time. For instance, when Delia decides to try and defend herself using the iron skillet, she is
surprised that she "cowed him and he did not strike her as he usually did" (454). It is very sad
when a relationship turns into one regularly filled with physical abuse. Furthermore, Sykes and
Delia have been married for fifteen years. If Sykes hit Delia after only two months, it must have
been a long fifteen years for Delia. Moreover, if Sykes is not hitting Delia, he is threatening her.
Throughout the story, Sykes threatens Delia numerous times. Two examples of this are when
Sykes says, "Don't gimme no lip neither, else Ah'll throw 'em out and put mah fist up side yo'
head to boot" (454) and "Ah oughter mash you in yo' mouf fuh drawing dat skillet on me" (455).
Overall, Sykes is a violent person and husband. There is no way that a marriage could be
successful with the malicious way in which Sykes conducts himself. In addition, it is not only that
Sykes beats Delia, which is horrible enough, but people in the village notice it as well. Elijah
Mosely comments, "Too much knockin' will ruin any 'oman. He done beat huh 'nough tuh kill
three women, let 'lone change they looks" (455). Elijah Mosely saying this not only shows how
other people notice, but also the extreme extent to which Sykes is beating Delia. Furthermore, it
must be embarrassing for Delia that other people know about their relationship problems and that
it is common knowledge. Sykes puts Delia through a lot of physical pain and agony and because
of this, she is definitely morally justified for not saving him.
Additionally, since Sykes cheats on Delia and breaks his marriage vows by being
unfaithful, Delia is morally justified for not helping Sykes. Whenever Sykes feels like it, he goes
out and finds a woman. Throughout "Sweat", the woman Sykes is with is named Bertha. Sykes
is paying for Bertha to be housed in the village at Delia Lewis' house. Delia knows that if it were
not Bertha, Sykes would be out with any other woman besides her. She even thinks, "Too late
now to hope for love, even if it were not Bertha it would be someone else" (455). Delia's attitude
infers to the reader that Sykes has cheated on Delia many times and that Delia has given up on
their relationship. Sykes does not just commit adultery and go off with all these other women, but
he seems to be amicable with every woman besides Delia. When the villagers were all talking
about Sykes and Delia, Jim Merchant tells all the guys about when Sykes brought a basket of
pecans to his wife as a present. Furthermore, Walter Thomas adds, "Ah sees 'im grinnin' at every
'oman dat passes" (456). Sykes does everything he can to show Delia that he wants to be with
other women, not her. Similarly, Sykes makes it a point to make it obvious to Delia and the
people in the village that he is cheating on Delia. It makes him happy to do so. Sykes even thinks
once, "Just then Delia drove past on her way home, as Sykes was ordering magnificently for
Bertha, It pleased him for Delia to see" (457). Sykes shows no respect towards Delia at all. He
rubs his actions in and tries to make Delia feel awful. For a marriage to be successful, the two
people need to respect each other and their marriage vows. Sykes does not do either of these
things. Because of the way Sykes cheats on Delia and then flaunts it in her face, she is morally
justified in not trying to save him.
Finally, Delia is morally justified in not coming to Sykes' aid because he is emotionally
abusive and harasses her. Not only does the physical abuse that Sykes inflicts on Delia cause her
pain, but his taunting words make it hurt even more. The very first time the reader is introduced
to Sykes' character, he tosses his bull whip at Delia. He does it to terrify her because he knows
that she is petrified of snakes. Moreover, when Delia screams, Sykes just keeps laughing. He
even says ^peaking of Delia's fear of snakes}, "Course Ah knowed it! That's how come Ah done
it" (453). The reader right away realizes that Sykes is a cruel man and husband. To additionally
terrify Delia, he catches a snake and then keeps it in a cage inside their house. Sykes does not
only hurt Delia with the words he says, but every time she sees the snake she is frightened. One
night Delia tells Sykes, "Syke, Ah want you tuh take dat snake 'way fum heah. You done starved
me an Ah put up widcher, you done beat me an Ah took dat, but you done kilt all mah insides
bringin' dat varmint heah" (458), Sykes response is, "A whole lot Ah keer 'bout how you feels
inside uh out" (458). Sykes never stops the cruel things he says to Delia in order to make her feel
horrible. The reader would hope that Sykes could find a small bit of compassion for Delia and not
continue to torture her with the presence of the snake. However, Sykes never does. Ultimately,
Sykes is indirectly responsible for his snake bite. He tries to petrify Delia by having the snake in
the house and then the reader can infer that he lets the snake out also to scare Delia. Because
Sykes let the snake out of its cage, it ends up biting him. Sykes5 harassment and poor treatment of
Delia ends up backfiring on him, so Delia is morally justified for not coming to his aid.
Due to Sykes' horrible treatment of Delia, she is morally justified in not helping him.
Sykes is not deserving of Delia's aid because of all the pain he put her through, both physically
and emotionally. Throughout Zora Neale Hurston's story, Delia and Sykes marriage and
relationship are very rocky and problematic. Sykes takes Delia for granted and uses her and then
he treats her dreadfully. Sykes gives Delia no reason at all to be inclined to come to his aid.

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