The Best Free Resource for Outstanding Essay and Paper Topics, Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Sweat Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston  that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for Zora Neale Hurston's “Sweat” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Sweat”at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.

For background, here is an extended analysis and summary of “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : Race and Racial Identity in “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston

Throughout “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, race plays a larger role than one might initially expect and the way it is perceived by characters such as Sykes and Delia are drastically different. In fact, the argument could easily be made that this difference in perception causes some of the conflict with the married couple. While Delia is a “good” woman and goes to church and works hard for the white people whom she washes clothes for, her husband views her to be a hypocrite (see quote below about this). For this essay on “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, find the few instances in the text where race is directly mentioned and explore the ways the character reacts to it. In addition, you might want to incorporate some of the ideas from the first topic above and look at race and gender.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 : “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston as a Feminist Tale?

Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Sweat” can be read as a work of feminist fiction, although not for the reason one would think. While it is true that she does allow herself to watch her cruel, unfaithful, and abusive husband die at the end, this is not necessarily a feminist act within itself—it is simply an end to the story. Although she takes abuse from her husband, Delia is actually a more empowered character than it may seem on first glance. She has built her own home, manages her finances, works hard, and takes pleasure in the results or her hard work. Generally, the only thing holding her back is her husband. For this essay, explore the ways in which Delia is meant to be seen as a strong woman rather than a passive one who takes abuse from Sykes. With the exception of the ending, look at ways she keeps herself going and how she is far more powerful than her husband, Bertha, or anyone else in the story.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The “Townie” Interlude in “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston  and Local Color / Regional Fiction

There are two significant aspects of “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston that make fall into a “local color” category. First of all, the dialects used by all the characters in the story (aside from the narrator—who oddly enough seems remarkably composed and even eloquent, especially compared with the dialog) give this story its character and also give the reader a sense of place. Without directly saying it, we can gather that the people in the story are not incredibly well-educated and that by the gossip, they live in a small rural town. The other aspect that leads to these conclusions is the dialect or speech itself. For this essay, examine the ways in which the dialects reflect the culture and how this aspect of language alone makes the story a work of regional fiction or less formally, local color writing. The best place to start with this topic is by looking at the scene where the men from town (Merchant, Joe, and Elijah Moseley) sit around gossip about Sykes and Delia. Why do you think such a scene would be included when the story is focused on Sykes and Delia?

For background, here is an extended analysis and summary of “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston

** For information on more works by Zora Neale Hurston, visit the “Their Eyes Were Watching God” PaperStarter page **


This list of important quotations from “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned.  All quotes from “Sweat” contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.

“She had brought love to the union and he had brought a longing for the flesh” (1023).

“Yeah, you just come from de church house on a Sunday night, but heah you is gone to work on them clothes. You ain’t nothin’ but a hypocrite. One of them amen-corner Christians—sing and whoop and shout; then come home and wash white folks’ clothes on the Sabbath” (1023).

“Too late for everything except her little home. She had built it for her old days, and planted one by one the trees and flowers there. It was lovely—lovely” (1024).

“Too much knockin’ will ruin any ‘oman. He done beat huh ‘nough tuh kill three women, let alone change they looks” (1024).

“Bertha had been in town three months now. Sykes was paying her room rent at Della Lewis’—the only house in town that have taken her in” (1026).

“Ah hates you tuh the same degree dat Ah useter tove yuh” (1027).

:Fifteen years of misery and suppression had brought Delia to the place where she would hope anything that looked towards a way over or through her wall of inhibitions” (1028).

“She could scarcely reach the Chinaberry tree, where she waited in the growing heat wwhile inside she knew the cold river was creeping to extinguish the eye which must know by now that she knew”

All Quotes from The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature (Henry Louis Gates Jr. eds) 2003.


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