Zora Neale Hurston in her short story “Sweat” includes the village men who make comments about the society and maintain the reader up-to-date with the events of the village. The men who like sitting at Joe Clarkes Porch hold discussing the happenings of the village and more so the activities of the main characters, Delia and Sykes. The literary approach used by the author is helpful in making the reader have factors of view that are different from the main narrator’s. Since the story is about a couple; Delia and Sykes, the writer, ensures that much of what the guys on the porch discuss revolves around the life of the two. Moreover, the use of the village men to tell the story of Delia and Sykes presents the reader with raw information which has not been processed by the main narrator. That way, the reader’s mind is challenged to picture the time and place where the most important things of the story happened. The men on the porch are significant in the story because they take the reader right into the center of the action.
The village men are funny, and through the fun they make a reader see what the narrator has not spoken about. In the first parts of the story, the narrator only makes the reader aware of Delia and Sykes as well as a woman that Sykes sees on the side. By the time the writer introduces the reader to the village men, the audience already has a picture of how evil Sykes is and how oppressed Delia is. That first narrative evokes feelings of hate towards Sykes for doing nothing and trying to spoil his wife’s business which is the main source of income for both. When the village men begin to talk about the couple, the reader loosens up due to the humorous way in which the men on the porch express themselves. For example, when Walter Thomas suggests that if Sykes had not beaten him to wooing Delia, he would have married her (3). Based on the fact that the narrator had already mentioned that the village men were chewing sugarcane at the porch, the reader can imagine a funny looking Walter Thomas with pieces of sugarcane in the mouth or hand speaking of beating another man in a contest for a lady.
Apart from bringing in humor to the otherwise sad story, the village men give the audience an analysis of Delia and Sykes lives that is not provided by the narrator. The village men makes the reader aware of the fact that the whole town knows how Sykes beats up Delia. Furthermore, the village men reveal to the reader the kind of woman that Sykes is cheating on Delia with when Elijah Moseley says, ” [How Sykes kin stommuck dat big black greasy Mogul he’s layin’ roun wid, gits me]” (3). The village men also describe to the reader how Delia was beautiful fifteen year ago and attribute her wrecked look to overworking and Sykes’s beatings (4). The writer cleverly inputs the men on the porch in the middle of the story to connect the past and the present lives of the central characters.
The other important function of the village men in the story is to give the reader an idea of what is likely to happen later in the story. From the statements of the village men, the reader can realize that Sykes is expected to die since many people hate him and they wish he could be dead. It is through the talks of the village men that a reader who has already developed a hatred for Sykes realizes that other people within the story share similar views. In fact, all the men on the porch agree that they should kill Sykes and Bertha by drowning them in the swamp (4). The unanimous agreement to Old Anderson’s advice is a suggestion to the reader that Sykes life scheduled to end.
Not only do the village men announce Sykes’s death but they help the reader approve of such a punishment for Sykes crimes against Delia. At the point when the village men begin condemning Sykes’s behaviors and empathizing with Delia, a reader who had already developed a hate for Sykes get the hope that there are characters who feel the same in the story. The author uses that literary technique to make the reader excited and heighten the reader’s desire to find out more about Sykes and Delia. By the time the snake kills Sykes, the information availed by the men on the porch have already made the reader unsympathetic towards Sykes and just like Delia, the reader also imaginatively watches as Sykes succumbs to his wickedness.
The author of “Sweat,” successfully uses the men on the porch to help the reader connect with the events of the story. There are vital pieces of information that a reader can only pick from the village men such as how beautiful Delia was before marrying Syke, the physical features of Bertha and the hatred that village people have for Syke. Therefore, if Zora, Neale Hurston would have left out the village men, the story would be less exciting, and many readers may not have connected well with it.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. http://wwwi.mcpherson.edu/~claryb/en255/handouts/sweat.pdf.