In "Sweat" by Zora Neal Hurston, in the second part of the story village men on Joe Clarke's porch talk about Delia. What do you learn more about Delia and Sykes from their talk?

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The gossip among the men on the porch of the store centers on Sykes Jones after they observe his wife Delia Jones pass by in her rusted wagon pulled by her shaggy pony. Much of what the men say reinforces Delia's contentions of the previous night because the men express their disgust for Sykes.

One of the men named Moss observes that Delia needs to take in prodigious amounts of laundry each week so that she can have food because Sykes Jones "ain't worth the shot and powder it would take to kill him." Remembering how pretty Delia was when she was young, Walter Thomas nostalgically says that he would have married her, but Sykes beat him to it. Then Elijah Mosley observes that "too much knockin' will ruin any woman." Sykes, he says, beat poor Delia enough times to kill as many as three women. Further, he wonders why Jones even likes Bertha, whom he calls a "black greasy Mogul." The store owner responds that Jones has always been crazy about heavy women. He adds that Jones had the nerve to come around his wife with a basket of pecans, but she told him  to "take'em right straight back home." Walter Thomas agrees that Jones grins at every woman he sees. However, he had to "eat humble pie" to get pretty little Delia. For fifteen years he was afraid of losing her. During that time he did his share around the home, but now he no longer does.

The most descriptive of all the men is one named Clarke. He uses a simile comparing Delia to sugarcane:

Taint no law on earth dat kin make a man be decent if it aint in 'im. There's plenty men dat takes a wife lak dey do a joint uh sugar-cane. It's round, juicy an' sweet when dey gits it. But dey squeeze an' grind, squeeze an' grind an' wring tell dey wring every drop uh pleasure dat's in 'em out. When dey's satisfied dat dey is wrung dry, dey treats 'em jes lak dey do a cane-chew. Dey throws em away.

He adds that these kind of men know what they are doing and that they hate themselves for their actions, but they continue until the poor women are used up. Then they hate her for being "a cane-chew an' in de way." Clarke's simile is an apt one because Sykes Jones does hate Delia for restricting his relationship with Bertha.

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From the talk of the men on Joe Clarke's porch, the reader learns that Delia travels each Saturday to collect clothes to wash, as Sykes does not provide anything to help her. The reader also learns that Delia was quite beautiful when she married Sykes 15 years ago, but her looks have faded because Sykes has beat her mercilessly over the years.

The men on the porch of the store say that Sykes prefers fat women and would have run off with one if he had found one who would have him. Sykes even tried to woo one of their wives with a basket of pecans. Sykes apparently tries to woo each woman he meets, and the men feel that he is not fit to be Delia's husband. Sykes used to carry out some of his responsibilities to Delia, but he no longer fulfills any of his responsibilities. Sykes became unbearable after a white woman from the north taught him how to drive a car. 

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In Zora Neale's Hurston's story, "Sweat," there is a scene where men in the town are sitting on a porch, discussing Sykes and Delia. As they watch Delia go by and then Sykes parading around with his girlfriend, they reveal another perspective on these characters. The men seem to respect Delia because she is a hard worker. They say that she is worn down now but before she became so stressed from being married to Sykes that she was better looking--a "pretty lil trick." They have nothing bad to say about her because the recognize that Sykes is a scoundrel and no good. He can't support her financially and is running around town with another woman. They admit that he's not decent but there's not much to be done about it. One of them says,"Taint no law on earth dat kin make a man be decent if it aint in 'im." The men on the porch have no respect for Sykes, which supports Delia's view of him as well.

 

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