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Theme Of Gender And Economics In Zora Neale Hurston's Short Stories

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Table of contents

  1. Gender
  2. Economics
  3. References


Gender and economics affect key characters of Hurston in her short stories. During 1940s, the work of Hurston was published in different magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and The American Mercury. It has been demonstrated in Wikipedia source that “She also wrote fiction about contemporary issues in the black community and became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance” A large number of Hurston publications such as “Sweat” has altogether addressed white characters, (Smith 2011).

As manifested in Wikipedia source, “The Harlem Renaissance was one of primarily African-American involvement. It rested on a support system of black patrons, black-owned businesses and publications”. It manifests the portraits of the trash of white women. In short, the meditation of Hurston on creation of gender and class identities, waste and abjection among poor whites provides a clear reflection for the eugenics disclosure of 1920s, (Zora Neale Hurston, n. d).

As far as the role of gender is concerned, it has been shown in the short story of English literature, composed by Zora Neale Hurston that Sykes playing the role of a dominant husband in the story had a huge impact on his wife, Delia, who appeared as one of the leading characters in the novel.

During the story, it appears that Sykes got easily angered and upset at his wife. Most of the times, Sykes started yelling at his wife for washing the clothes of white people in the house. At times, Sykes threatened Delia that he might throw all of the clothes if she does not stop washing them. During this time, Delia tells Sykes that in fifteen years of their marriage, it was the hard work of Delia that enabled them to bring table on the food and purchased their own house.

Throughout the story, the entire frustration was taken out by Sykes by teasing Delia with snakes (which always made her extremely frightened), cheating with other women and physically hurting his wife throughout the story. One of the Sykes action is clearly manifested in the statement provided by Smith (2011), “He is sleeping with another woman, Bertha, and he spends all of her hard-earned money buying her trite gifts”.

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Even though the behavior of Sykes cannot be followed or accepted, he eventually manifested the signs of a mental issue that is not completely dug or addressed throughout the story. Sykes also felt menaced due to the reason that Delia was the only financial supporter of the house. He intends to exercise the control and power over their marriage, therefore he always made efforts to make Delia look inferior to him.

When yelling, screaming and hollering get failed; Sykes adopted another way of making Delia listen, through showing violent behavior. Throughout the novel, Delia was threatened by Sykes that he will physically hit her one way or another.


According to a Wikipedia source, “Hurston had become disenchanted with communism, but he used the struggle of African Americans for respect and economic advancement as both the setting and the motivation for his work” (Zora Neale Hurston, n. d). Various civil uprisings and race riots have taken place throughout the United States in 1919’s Red Summer.

It clearly mirrored the economic competition over housing and employment positions in different cities, as well increased escalation in different social territories (Harlem Renaissance, n. d). However, it has been clearly manifested in Wikipedia source that “Harlem Renaissance ended abruptly because of naive assumptions about the centrality of culture, unrelated to economic and social realities” (Harlem Renaissance, n. d).

It was the poor economic conditions that urged Delia to work for white people. Even Delia’s husband refused to assist his wife during economic problems. As a result, Delia was highly obstructed in different ways. In order to meet financial needs, Delia showed complete reliance on herself for making the survival of her family possible. She started supporting her husband and started paying for their supplies, food and house. The difficulty of the economic situations faced by Delia were only compounded by emotional and physical abuse she had undergone from Sykes, from whom she don’t have any more hope for affection.

It has been stated by Zora Neale Hurston that “I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief,” (Zora Neale Hurston, n. d). Hurston faced different situations when she felt that she was discriminated from white people in a society.


  1. Harlem Renaissance. (n. d). Wikipedia. Retrieved from
  2. Smith, N. (2011). Analysis and Summary of “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston. Retrieved from
  3. Zora Neale Hurston. (n. d). Wikipedia. Retrieved from
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Theme Of Gender And Economics In Zora Neale Hurston’s Short Stories. (2021, September 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Theme Of Gender And Economics In Zora Neale Hurston’s Short Stories.” Edubirdie, 21 Sept. 2021,
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