The main character in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” is a black woman who resides in the South that clutches on to her belief in God to help her get through the suffering that she endures from her abusive and adulterous husband, Sykes. “Sweat” is full of religious symbolism that demonstrates that Hurston was using the theme of good vs. evil in the short story.
In the very beginning of “Sweat” one can see that Delia possesses a very strong work ethic, by the way that she is working vigorously to wash the clothes for the white people that she worked for to put food on the table and a roof over her and Sykes’ head. The white clothing that Delia washes in the story represents her character. White signifies her virtuousness and wholesome spirit. Delia has a docile personality and a prevailing belief in God. Delia’s body may be physically broken from all the years of tough labor and mistreatment from Sykes, however her spirit remains unbroken. Delia is a church going woman that is inspired by her trust in God. She has confidence that God will steer her the right way and shield her from Sykes cruel physical and emotional abuse.
Another reference to Delia’s goodness can additionally be located in these lines of "Sweat,” "Delia's work-worn knees crawled over the earth in Gethsemane and up the rocks of Calvary many, many times during these months" (445). According to Raymond Brown, who wrote, A Crucified Christ in Holy Week: Essays on the Four Gospel Passion Narratives, the garden of Gethsemane is the location where Jesus took his followers to pray. He advised some of them to observe and several of them to pray, however they fell asleep. Judas betrayed Jesus and escorted the Romans to him at Gethsemane prior to him being executed (49). Delia undergoes betrayal, she bears a cross also. She wedded Sykes since she felt affection for him; however he is an adulterer that beats her.
Sykes personality is totally different than Delia’s. Sykes Jones is physically and emotionally cruel to Delia. He is immoral and unfaithful; furthermore he takes the money that is earned from Delia's tough labor and squanders it away on his mistress, Bertha. Whereas Sykes may be strong in body, he does not have any belief in God. Sykes in a sense can be compared to the devil because like the devil he drained Delia of her beauty, joy and happiness that she once possessed. This point is brought up in the story when Joe Clarke and the village men are talking about Delia and Sykes ” …But dey squeeze an’ grind an’ wring every drop uh pleasure dat’s in ‘em out” (443). According to Davis Masson, who wrote, Essays Biographical and Critical “All sadness and melancholy come from the devil” (86). Once their marriage starts to fall apart, Sykes uses Delia’s anxiety of snakes against her. Andre’ Ménez, who wrote The Subtle Beast, states, “Being sometimes poisonous, hidden in the shadows; slowly and mutely guiding, snakes have often been deemed powerful and shifty, evil creatures whose...