Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The story covers several weeks in the lives of Delia Jones and her husband, Sykes, from a Sunday evening to a Monday morning, with a brief flashback to the course of their relationship during fifteen years of marriage. The action begins at a crucial moment that is to lead to Sykes’s death and Delia’s liberation. For the first time, Delia stands up to Sykes’s abuse. She has just returned from church and has begun her week’s work as a laundry woman for white people, sorting out the clothes that she collected the day before. Sykes, who has spent the day with his mistress, Bertha, lays a bullwhip across her shoulders to frighten her. She is deathly afraid of snakes. He also kicks her clothes around, grinding dirt into them, and complains not only about her working for white people but also about her hypocrisy, for she goes to church and receives the Sacrament but still works on Sunday. This irreligious, adulterous man, making such accusations and physically and psychologically abusing her, suddenly causes her to alter the relationship: She drops the meek posture of the subservient wife, takes up a heavy frying pan as a weapon, and threatens Sykes with retaliation. She declares herself willing to defend not only her person but also the house that she has paid for with “sweat” for the past fifteen years. She refuses to let him drive her out to make room for his new woman.
The following Saturday, Delia takes the laundered clothes to town. During this second segment of the story, Zola Neale Hurston...
(The entire section is 619 words.)
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