The opening line in Sweat concisely introduces the reader to a in particular specific and significant aspect in relation to the entire story: the setting. The reader learns of the protagonist, Delia Jones, a washwoman and her work. Looking at the setting, Sweat occurs in the 1920s in a Florida rural town with the description in the passage: “It was once eleven o’clock of a Spring night in Florida. It was Sunday.”. The reference to hot climate in the setting further supports the title of story, Sweat. The placing introduced in the first paragraph connects to the character dialogue introduced in Sweat. The characters speak in a unique way because the characters’ communicate 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, 1997).
The first paragraph of the story is important in that it introduces us to the symbolism portrayed in Sweat. All through the story, symbols have been used to present important ideas. An example is the clothing. Delia works as a washwoman, and her caring and considerate attention to her customers’ clothes symbolizes her purity and diligent working habits. However, Sykes her husband is just the opposite. His behavior symbolizes his disrespectful and destructive nature to things as well as people. Throughout the story, theme is another literary element which makes the first paragraph important because this first paragraph helps us understand the theme of suffering and struggle. From the first paragraph of Sweat, the reader perfectly understands and sympathizes with Delia Jones. Her life seems to be filled with unending manual labor and physical exhaustion.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. Edited by Roger D Abrahams, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1997.