Modernism and Identity

Essay by harriskv2 April 2004

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One of the major issues that is found within works written during the period of Modernism is a character's sense of loss for things that have valuable meaning and purpose to life. The suffer from a great deal of alienation, leading them on a search for their true identity within the already chaotic modern world. Much of this may be caused by their surroundings, while often it occurs due to personal feelings. Whatever the case, a character is often successful in finding their true inner self, while some are not quite as lucky.

In Zora Neal Hurston's "Sweat" we find that the character suffering from alienation is Delia. Delia is in a fifteen year marriage that has been on the rocks since the very beginning. Her husband, Sykes, does not seem to care about her the least bit, as he is constantly being mean and harassing her.

He is also cheating on her with another woman. On top of that, Delia is always working hard just to bring in money to pay for everything while Sykes is off being lazy and wasting his life away.

Delia is isolated because she never seems to associate with anyone around the town. She is always working in her house, which is her only true place of happiness and comfort since it is rightfully hers. Whenever she is out in town doing her job, she purposely avoids talking to anyone because she does not want to have confront any issue concerning Sykes. She especially wants to avoid Sykes because she does not want to see him with his other woman. What makes her more isolated is the fact that the other townspeople know how Sykes treats her. They always talk about how they want to help stop what is happening, but...