Zora Hurson’s ‘Sweet’ and Andre Dubus ‘Killing’

Published 01 Nov 2017

Zora Hurson’s ‘Sweet’ and Andre Dubus ‘ Killing’ presents similar yet also contrasting stories of love and hatred and commitment. Hurson’s Sweet’ talks about a marriage relationship in which the love that once felt by the couple had faded and all that was left were infidelity, and unfairness on the part of the man. Hurson’s essay depicts a woman struggle in living with a husband who does not really love his wife. In a sense, the story brings to light the feelings of both the man and the wife in view of their unmet desire.

Sykes Jones, the husband of Delia seemed to distaste her already due to her size and focus his attention on other women who were more in shape, or in other words, sexier women. Ironically, despite his ruddiness, he remains with her for the past fifteen years which seem to suggest that it was only the physical size of Delia that he cannot be swallowed or perhaps there was something else. Delia was the kind of a hardworking woman.

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She was godly and attends church every Sunday despite her much work. Obviously, she is committed to her marriage with Sykes. Here it seemed that children as in the case of Dubus’ “Killing” play an important role. Unfortunately, the couple did not have any children. Dubus ‘Killing’ on the other hand is about the murder of two men involving two innocent men and a murderer. The first murder happened right in the home of a loving father whose son Frank was shot dead by an intruder named Richard Strout. Though sentenced to jail, yet Strout was out on a bail. Frank’s family could not afford to take that the cold blooded killer of their son was out. Matt himself worried about his wife’s concern convinced that he needed to take some action on the situation. In the end, Both stories prove that between life and death, the family relationship still holds between them despite any thing that may have happened both good and bad.

There seemed to be not many similarities between the two essays except for two things: First, both essay concerns about the family relationship. Hurson’s “Sweet” features a black couple married for fifteen years whose marriage was already corrupted by infidelity, disloyalty, rudeness, and the lack of real love on the part of the man. Their relationship was characterized by coldness and insensibilities on the situation and need of the wife. From all angle, their relationship as husband and wife was a dead one except the formality that they are legally married.

Nevertheless, the couple lived together under the same roof. Dubus “Killing” on the other hand presents a typical murder case involving two accounts of murder with the murderer himself killed. Matt Fowler was a very loving father, responsible husband, and successful businessman. For some reason, however, his son Frank was shot dead inside their own house by Richard Strout who barged into their house on a single purpose of killing Frank.

Anyhow, Matt’s family was a picture of a happy one and is strongly bonded by closeness, respect, and love for each member. The second similarity is that both families were into trouble. Sykes and Delia’s married life was troublesome as they frequently engaged in heated conversation. Sykes has involved with other women the reason he lost his feelings and appetites for his wife. Frank on the other was also involved with a woman who was still in the process of having a divorce with her husband. Both men were involved in a complicated relationship and both had died as a result of their own iniquity.

There were quite a number of the contrasting situation between the Novels. First, Zora Hurson’s “Sweet” was based on the context of a poor black family who was earning a living by washing clothes of others. In contrast with the “Killing,” The novel was set in the context of a middle-class white family. The Fowler had their own business and had a circle of friends who were professionals and business people. In other words, the most obvious contrast is economics as well as racial differences.

Second, Hurson depicts in her novel that blacks were more committed to the relationship and that they can afford to stick to that relationship regardless of the nature of the relations between them. That is, they can maintain their composure to avoid harming each other. In the Killing, however, Dubus depicted a scenario wherein the limits of human temperament can lead to murdering persons. Frank’s complicated relations with the woman who is yet to process her divorce with the husband got him in trouble. Although the Fowlers themselves had good family relations Frank’s affair with a married woman caused him his death. The third contrast between the “Sweet” and the “Killing” is Hurson’s novel depicts a woman’s struggle having married to the husband with an undesirable character. Her life was a constant struggle both to earn a living and to be able to persevere her husband’s oppression on her, as she was often misunderstood or perhaps her feelings was deliberately ignored and belittled. In contrast to this, Dubus features a middle-class family who was supportive of their children. Matt was both a loving husband to his wife and father to his four children. Here Dubus establishes a positive notion of a white married couple.

This is certainly a direct contrast as it seemed that Zora N. Hurson has created a concept that black American families are usually poor and quarrelsome. The fourth contrast is that Hurson seemed to have ignored some reality. First, the couple in Hurson’s “Sweet” was childless and maybe this explains something about the husband and his character’s role. In contrast, Frank’s family in Dubus Killing was more mature, efficient and better organized. They have four children who were mostly professional. In a real sense, it seemed that it was reversed. Normally, poor families are the ones that have many children, while middle-class families often have one or two children. Whatever is the case, the two essays reflected that children play a great role towards a happy relationship. Overall similarities and differences of the two essays depend on the context of the author’s focus. In the case of Hurson, one could see that her novel focuses on the woman struggle under a husband who deliberately ignores her own feelings, while Dubus focus on the murder cases involving a father and a son and the murderer.

The two novels provided a new approach towards understanding a family relationship. Obviously, Hurson intended to feature a black couple whose relations was severed by the husband’s rudeness, infidelity, insensitivity, and the lack of real love. It appears that in human relationships, women had a deeper commitment and would have the tendency to endure the situation so long as her husband is on her side. The case in Matt Fowler who shot dead the murderer proves that at the end of the day, both stories prove that between life and death, the family relationship still holds between them despite any thing that may have happened both good and bad.”


  • Dubus, Andre Finding a girl in America USA: David Godine Publisher, 1980
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