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Steven Wood
Jerry Erath
Essay #4
7th March 1997
It is easy to see why a person would find “Sweat” an offensive story.

Many who read this story will find that the style in which it is written to be
degrading to the African American race. However, this assumption has little
backing. Zora Hurston is clearly relaying a story that tells of her time. To
say “Sweat” is stereotypical is to deny the fact that this is the way things
were at one time.

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For a person to acknowledge the way things were is to merely recall
history. Why should a race be ashamed of their history? They would better
their own values by taking this story for what it is worth. Not only does it
tell of their ancestors way of life, but it shows how things have changed for
the better.

If one could not write stories about their experiences in the past the
public would be unknowing of its culture and heritage. Hurston even used
reference to Jewish people in this story. They also were slaves and were faced
with over four hundred years of hardships and inequalities. It has not been
known for the people of the Jewish faith to be insulted by the Bible which tells
their stories. In fact, they use it as a way of life. It serves as a learning
tool that proved how strong they were and how much suffering they had to endure.

When they are faced with problems they relate back to stories, just as this, to
find that strength once again.

Mrs. Hurston, being a African American herself, should have the right to
tell a story of her heritage without being persecuted. The fact that that is
how African Americans spoke during that time should not be cause for
embarrassment. It is just a fact of how things were. When relating a story
from a certain time period, it should be written in the dialect used at that

The people who find this story demeaning are obviously choosing to not
believe this is how things were. If you change the facts, you change the
history. People of all nationalities have parts of their heritage that they
would rather not admit to, but a mistake made should be noted and then changed
if possible. It should not be forgotten due to its unpleasantness.

The more African Americans are ignored for their differences, the more
they have to set themselves apart from the “typical” white American. For example,
black people were given equal rights and equal opportunities in the working
world with affirmative action. These things were obtained through the request
and demanding of African Americans so they could be equal Americans. Once these
things were obtained, they set out to make themselves as different as possible.

It is very understandable that they would want to differ from those who caused
them so much humiliation as a race. In fact, for them to want to run out and
act the same way would be hypocritical. The need for difference is not only
understandable, but expected.

Hurston portrays African Americans with the underdeveloped speech which
they had at that time. Not only does she portray their speech habits, but also
tells of their daily life experiences. The main character should be a model for
African Americans today. She was humble and didn’t have too much pride. She
was willing to do what it took to survive. She had a hard life but dealt with
it believing that all who did wrong would reap what they had sewed.

The African Americans today should take notice and not be too proud to
admit the things they wish to forget.


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