compare the ways in which the two short stories, “Cora Unashamed” by Langston Hughes and “Sweat” by Z. N. Hurston, deal with the themes of racial segregation and racial consciousness, and explain how their authors manipulated the elements of fiction, such as setting and symbols, to fight racial prejudice and stereotypes, as well as promote racial pride.
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I'm not sure that I would personally choose "Sweat" as a story especially relevant to "the themes of racial segregation and racial consciousness" and "racial pride." Both Sykes and Delia strike me as somewhat simplistic characters: Delia for the most part is the virtuous victim and Sykes for the most part is the evil victimizer. As I have mentioned in another post, a story by Hurston in which the characters strike me as truly and fascinatingly complex is "The Gilded Six-Bits." For a story that is one of the most devastatingly powerful treatments of racial prejudice I have ever read, you may want to take a look at "La Belle Zoraide," by Kate Chopin. That is a truly stunning story and really deals very well with all the specific issues you have raised.
Racial Segregation and Consciousness--In both stories, the women (Delia and Cora) do manual labor for white women (laundry, cleaning, etc.). They are allowed in the houses of white women, touch some of their most valuable things, and influence their children, but at the end of the day, they return to their segregated sections of town. In regards to racial consciousness, both women are well aware of how others view them. Delia from "Sweat" struggles more with her identification within the black community as "poor Delia" whom Sykes cheats on. Cora struggles more with her role as a black woman in a white community. When she loses her own child, she begins to see little white Jessie Studevant as her child, but this causes her more pain because of Jessie's fate and her inability to save her.
Both women are in conflict with the stereotypes that others have of them. They feel that they are expected to take whatever is dealt with them, but neither does so. Instead of allowing herself to the be the poor black woman whose husband goes around town cheating on her, Delia finally has enough and gets even with Sykes. Similarly, when Cora finds herself an unmarried mother of a multi-racial baby, she continues her normal life without shame and demonstrates that she has something of worth to teach Jessie Studevant despite how others stereotype her.
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