Engendering Language, Silence, and Voice

Published 06 Jul 2017

Zora Neale Hurston used her writings to voice out what she feels. As an outlet of her opinion, we can say that Hurston’s works can describe what kind of person she is, as well as determine how she views things. Her short story, “Sweat” tells about the story of a black woman and her life, including her struggle to fight poverty and a cheating husband. Here, we can see Hurston’s different perspectives regarding different concerns. As we understand the story, hopefully we could also learn more about the author.

The other person that we would compare with Zora Neale Huston is another American author, Alice Walker. Walker, a self-declared feminist and womanist, describes what a black woman is all about, in her essay “In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden.” If the writings would be used to reflect the authors, then we could also use the essay to know more about Alice Walker. By understanding her work, we may also be able learn more about her. We will try to compare and contrast the two authors, Walker and Hurston, based on their writings. We will determine their similarities and differences in the aspect of their relationship with men, with God, and their ideas about the authority.

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One important aspect that we have to consider is about how these women view various relationships with men. In Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat,” we can see that the prominent of theme of the story is about the cheating of the husband. The protagonist is a hardworking black woman who lives with her husband. She literally wears her body off working just to provide food for their family. However, the husband doesn’t want to be with the wife anymore, so he treats her badly, and shows her in the face that he already has another woman, without caring for whatever others might think and feel. Here, we can see that Huston portrays a man capable of “losing interest” of his wife, which consequently lead to cheating or finding someone else to replace her. Hurston likened the wife to a joint of sugar cane where “It’s round, juicy an’ sweet when dey gits it, but they squeeze an’ grind, squeeze an’ grind an’ wring tell they wring every drop of pleasure dat’s in ‘em out (201).” For Hurston, men are users, who would use women while they’re good, and when they’re worn out, they dump them and replace them with new ones.

In Alice Walker’s essay, “In search of Our Mothers’ Garden,” Walker acknowledges how society considers men as dominant or of a higher level than women. Women are expected to do these chores and those chores, and they weren’t really given the freedom to express themselves. On the other hand, males can leisurely enjoy what they like doing, including various forms of art and literature. For Walker, men and women should be held at equal levels, as she tells of how her mother always worked beside her father, and not behind him. Men and women are equal in all aspects, which is why women should be able to enjoy the freedom that men enjoys, experience the things that men experiences as well.

Another aspect that we could consider in comparing the two is their attitudes about God and religion as a whole. In Hurston’s short story, Delia, the protagonist is God-fearing and a church-abiding person. She refused to have an argument with her husband and she “aint for no fuss t’night,” because she “just come from taking sacrament at the church house”. On the other hand, her husband uses the fact that she just came to church as an argument why she was washing the clothes of the white people. Her husband may really be against the white folks, but he’s just using it to have another argument with his wife (198).

Alice Walker’s essay tells that religion should not be forced on somebody else. People should not easily submit to an alien religion and worship the gods that come with that religion. Alice Walker presents an alternative meaning to these gods and goddesses, comparing them to the lords that the black servants have worked under. There are some who are blinded by the task of serving such people and has went to great lengths to consider their masters as their gods and their goddesses.

Another aspect to consider in comparing the two authors would be about their ideas on authority. In the story “Sweat,” the characters have a strong idea of whom or what the authority is, and both react when they were threatened that their actions would be reported to the authorities. They regard the authority as a higher power which is an integral part that should be maintained. The authority mentioned in the story is the white me, who were maybe assigned to oversee the progress in each groups which is evident in the statement “Perhaps he threat to go to the white folks had frightened Syke (205).”

On the other hand, in Alice Walker’s essay, we can say that the author depicts her view of the authority, that it is something dictated by the society. In the free world, many people are able to do whatever they wanted to do, provided they don’t affect you. The authority on this setting talks about the law enforcers described in the essay. However, men should not have authority over women. Both of them are created equal and should enjoy equality that they enjoy for the rest of their days. It doesn’t mean that since males are generally dominant physically, they should be grated more power over the others. The difference in the depiction of authority of both the authors just shows that these two lived on separate times, and the definition of authority is also evolving.


Zora Neale Hurston was an accomplished author, and was an important figure when it comes to empowering women. If we are to base the characteristics and traits of Hurston on what she has written, we can say that Hurston seeks fair treatment for the males and females, and that Hurston is also God-fearing, and as much as possible, people should respect the church and God no matter what race or necessity that the guys went through. Woman for Hurston is the typical ideal woman: free, loved, and has good relations with those from other countries.

Alice Walker’s essay on the other hand, is an eye opener for most of us. It drives us to think, feel, and experience what the other younger members went through. Walker believes that woman stand as equals with man. She continues to fight so that women like her will be heard and documented, as well as rehabilitated. These two authors are remarkable in their own ways of highlighting the women which were associated with them early on.

Works Cited:

  • Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. 2008.
  • Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers Garden. 2008.
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