Let the Timid Speak: The Woman/Nature Metaphor in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat”


  • Karla Rohová University of Ostrava




ecofeminism, Zora Neale hurston, Sweat, dehumanization, animalization


This article explores Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Sweat” (1926) from an ecofeminist perspective. When it comes to the role of nature in Hurston’s writing, ecocritical as well as feminist discussions often romanticize the role of nature in the lives of Hurston’s characters. Hurston’s short story “Sweat,” however, has generally been overlooked by ecocritics and ecofeminists, despite the fact that the story’s female protagonist Delia is repeatedly linked with nature or animals in the text. The aim of this paper is thus to examine the manner in which the main character Delia as well as her abusive husband Sykes are associated with nature, including animals, in order to critically assess the abuse Delia is subjected to. Particular attention is then devoted to three main parts of the story: Delia’s connection to her pony, the village men’s conversations and their subsequent comparison of Delia to sugar cane as well as Hurston’s reenactment of the fall from the Garden of Eden. Throughout the analysis, the focus is on the presence of dehumanization related to animalization or naturalization as well as on Hurston’s depiction of the dualistic character of the metaphors woman/nature and woman/animal along with the impact such associations have on Hurston’s characters.

Author Biography

Karla Rohová, University of Ostrava

Karla Rohová is a PhD student at the University of Ostrava. In both her studies and her publications, she focuses on exploring literary works from ecofeminist and ecocritical perspectives. Since 2022 she has been a part of the GA ČR grant scheme “Environmental Justice in Ethnic American Literatures” (2022-2024). Her latest publications include “When Nature Triggers Trauma: Environmental Racism and Ecofeminism in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God” (2021) and “Mother Earth and Her Seed: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower from an Ecofeminist and Ecocritical Perspective” (2022). Apart from her studies, she also devotes her time to creative writing, especially to poetry.


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How to Cite

Rohová, K. (2023). Let the Timid Speak: The Woman/Nature Metaphor in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat”. American & British Studies Annual, 16, 9–22. https://doi.org/10.46585/absa.2023.16.2494