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Sweat's first line succinctly introduces the reader to a critical element of the story: the setting. The heroine, Delia Jones, a washwoman, and her work are introduced to the reader. The Sweat takes place in a rural Florida town in the 1920s, as described in the passage: "It was eleven o'clock on a Spring night in Florida." It had been Sunday.” (Hurston 1; Hurston 2; Hurston 3; Hurston 4; Hur The story's title, Sweat, is aligned with the hot weather described in the setting. The peculiar language of the characters can be noticed from the first paragraph - the characters speak in a very unique way because the characters' dialogue is written in colloquial English which reflects the dialect of rural, Southern black Americans in the 1920s. The using of dialect in the characters’ dialogue gives a complete contrast to the efficient, eloquent voice of the story's third-person narrator. “Next time, Ah'm gointer kick 'em outdoors,' he threatened as he struck a match along the leg of his corduroy breeches.” (Hurston 1).
The first paragraph of the story is important because it introduces us to the symbolism portrayed in Sweat. For instance, Delia works as a washwoman, and her caring and considerate attention to her customers' clothes symbolizes her purity and diligent working habits. However, her husband is just the opposite. His behavior symbolizes his disrespectful and destructive nature to things as well as people. Theme is another literary element which makes the first paragraph important because it helps us to understand Delia’s suffering and struggle.
Questions on Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston
Why did Hurston cast Delia as a washwoman? Is there any significance in the profession Hurston chosen for her?
Why does Delia continue staying with Sykes even with his abuse and lack of respect towards her?
In what ways does Delia Jones change all through the story and why?
Does Sykes Jones have any positive qualities and which are they?
Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. Edited by Roger D Abrahams, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1997. Web 18 Sept. 2017
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