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Inequality in Adichie’s “To My One Love” and Hurston’s “Sweat” Essay

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Updated: May 27th, 2021

There is a variety of characteristics that can be used by individuals to treat others unjustly, such as race, gender, financial stability, or sexual orientation. Despite many breakthroughs that have been made in different spheres of humans life, inequality remains an acute issue. This theme has always popular with writers, who reflect a variety of aspects related to unfairness in their works. The present paper aims at comparing and contrasting two short stories — “To My One Love” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston. The central argument of both of these pieces is the problem of inequality, each of the stories covering a different aspect of it.

The purpose of writing the stories was similar for the two authors. Both Adichie and Hurston tried to explain the hardships experienced by African American people as opposed to the whites. Although there seems to exist a gap in time reference, the two pieces serve to demonstrate the inequality between the two races. In “Sweat,” Hurston depicts the strenuous work of an African American woman who is also constantly abused by her husband.

The protagonist, Delia, collects clothes from white people and washes them by hand. She hardly ever rests, and her husband treats her without any gratefulness or respect (Hurston). Adichie’s story is different from Hurston’s one since no family relationships are discussed in it. However, the problem of racial prejudices is also central in “To My One Love” since the author mentions how one of the main characters, Nnamdi, was killed during “an operation” (Adichie). Thus, the author’s purpose for writing the stories was not the same, but it was similar, the topic from “Sweat” relating to the theme raised in “To My One Love.”

In both stories, the main protagonists are women: Delia in “Sweat” and Ima in “To My One Love.” Delia is a perfect example of a dynamic character since she undergoes a serious change towards the end of the story. Having been suffering the abusive conduct of her husband, Sykes, for fifteen years, the woman finally finds enough courage to oppose his mockery and cruelty. In the beginning, Sykes scares his wife with a bullwhip, which she takes for a snake, and says, “Ah don’t keep how bad Ah skeer you” (Hurston).

He throws around the clothes she has planned to sort and remarks, “Ah, don’t keep if you never git through” (Hurston). However, by the end of the story, Delia is transformed: she does not feel the fear she used to have perceived, and she does not help her husband when the snake, which he brought home a few days before to scare her, bites her her her him. In Adichie’s story, the main character is static: Ima does not experience any significant changes.

The writing style and the tone of both authors have some similarities. The tone in Hurston’s story is serious, sinister, and also disapproving, which creates a scary, sympathetic, and judgmental mood. In Adichie’s piece, the tone is solemn and objective, and the mood evoked by it is sympathetic and sad. The two stories seem to have been created with the descriptive type of writing. Hurston and Adichie employ a variety of stylistic devices to make their stories sound entertaining.

The use of figurative language is rather rich in both stories, despite “To My One Love” is much shorter than “Sweat.” Both authors use such devices as:

  • metaphor: “the strapping hulk,” “the sun had burned July to August,” “in a red fury” (Hurston); “he was an archetype of the <…> student” (Adichie);
  • simile: “like a blown scarf,” “like a million hot arrows” (Hurston); “like a hot, moist blanket” (Adichie);
  • alliteration: “drop dead,” “wash white,” ” seized the iron skillet from the stove and struck,” “pretty pass,” “crisp, clean” (Hurston); “swaggered and smiled,” “beggars under bridges,” “scented satin” (Adichie);
  • assonance: “meekness seemed,” “pretty lil prick,” “heat steamed” (Hurston); “participants in the ritual” (Adichie);
  • oxymoron: “awful beauty” (Hurston); “terribly attractive” (Adichie);
  • personification: “terror took hold of her,” “determined silence” (Hurston); “buses spitting out thick gray smoke” (Adichie).

Apart from these stylistic devices, each story has some peculiar ones. For instance, Hurston employs the following elements of figurative language:

  • onomatopoeia: “humming”;
  • climax: “hoping, praying for an argument,” “a period of introspection, a space of retrospection, then a mixture of both.”

Meanwhile, Adichie makes use of the following devices:

  • irony: “full of praise for the poems (although she had not read them)”;
  • chiasmus: “A sign. I won’t leave until you take it.” “I won’t take it until you tell me what it means.”;
  • polysyndeton: “beggars under bridges and children playing football and soldiers by the roadsides,” “lived on campus and had little money and spoke good English.”

The stories under analysis have both similar and divergent features. The major similarity is that the central argument in Hurston’s “Sweat” and Adichie’s “To My One Love” is the issue of inequality. The authors use figurative language in abundance, and they both employ a tone that has some shades of seriousness. The detailed analysis allows concluding that the thesis has been proved and that some dissimilarities in the authors’ tone or use of expressive means do not diminish the resemblance between the stories.

Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “Utne Reader. Web.

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Biblioklept. 2013. Web.

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"Inequality in Adichie's "To My One Love" and Hurston's "Sweat"." IvyPanda, 27 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/inequality-in-adichies-to-my-one-love-and-hurstons-sweat/.

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IvyPanda. "Inequality in Adichie's "To My One Love" and Hurston's "Sweat"." May 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/inequality-in-adichies-to-my-one-love-and-hurstons-sweat/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Inequality in Adichie's "To My One Love" and Hurston's "Sweat"." May 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/inequality-in-adichies-to-my-one-love-and-hurstons-sweat/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Inequality in Adichie's "To My One Love" and Hurston's "Sweat"'. 27 May.

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