Discuss the importance of the men on the porch in the short story “Sweat.” What is their significance? Why does the author put them there and have them comment on their observations? What do they offer?

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The men on Jim Clarke's porch are relatively dispassionate observers of Delia's life and marriage. They fulfill a function similar to that of the chorus in Greek drama, commenting on the action and guiding and informing the views of the audience. As idle men of a similar background, one might expect them to have some sympathy with Sykes, but his brutal conduct to Delia puts him beyond their sympathy and their poor opinion of him reinforces the reader's disgust at his sadism. Almost as soon as they are introduced, one of them says:

Syke Jones aint wuth de shot an’ powder hit would tek tuh kill ’em. Not to huh he aint.

This meets with general approval and another adds that Sykes has beaten Delia enough to kill three women. One even suggests that they should kill Sykes themselves but the weather is too hot and they are too lazy. It is clear that Delia will have to take her fate into her own hands and defend herself if she is to enjoy any peace or security in the future.

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