by Lynn Nottage

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Do dreams and aspirations inspire or inhibit characters in Sweat?

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In the earlier period of the action covered in Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, dreams and aspirations form a significant component of the motivations of the characters; but eight years later, the audience or reader sees the outcome of those hopes and the events in which the characters became involved.

Among the employees at the factory, Jessie had seemed satisfied with her current job even though she had not planned to stay so long, but she reevaluates her stance in light of Cynthia's success. Tracey tries to move up into a better position, but her application is rejected, while Cynthia’s ambitions are recognized by promotion. Chris, Cynthia’s son, sees the limitations of factory life and aspires to attend college. Many of the workers aspire to obtaining improved collective bargaining through unionization. As this seems increasingly unlikely, the factory’s relationship with the workers changes, which affects the attitudes of the workers and other community residents. Those who had found themselves excluded by the dominant hiring system still retained the aspiration to gain employment; once the strike is underway, however, this opportunity comes at the cost of crossing the picket line, as in the case of Oscar.

The consequences of the strike and the associated violence shatter some people’s dreams. Chris, rather than continuing in his studies, is incarcerated. Stan’s severe injuries derail his career, and Oscar turns away from the factory to care for him and the bar.

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