Sweat Questions

How are romantic relationships portrayed in the play? What does that add to the meaning of the play?

Scene two opens with Jessie passed out at her friend’s birthday party. Is it mentioned that after her husband left her for a younger woman, the breakup of the marriage had driven her to drink every night. While intoxicated and in an argument with Stan, Jessie refers to this ex as the man that will come to her aid and fight Stan if need be. The denial is quite sad, although Tracey doesn’t feel too sympathetic, having gone through a failed marriage of her own. Tracey eludes to a previous short-lived intimacy with Stan, but the whole moment is quite dismissive and unromantic. Cynthia has even more pressing man trouble. She unwisely lets her ex, Brucie, move back in around Christmas time, only to wake up on the morning itself and find the presents under the tree gone. Brucie, who has been locked out of his job, used hard drugs to cope and has never been the same person. His addition caused fights between the couple, one violent and mad enough to end in arrest. It seems that Nottage placed these fractured relationships against a backdrop of economic anxiety to show how the latter can truly affect our romantic relationships. As the ecosystem of the play unravels, so do the romantic relationships between characters. We are left with both racial and romantic resentment, internal and external violence. And perhaps the romantic moral of the play is all too relatable: Our human tendency, when pushed up against a wall, to lash out at the ones closest to our hearts.

Is one meant to feel sympathetic for the Mill workers?

Nottage clearly paints a seemingly sympathetic picture of characters, all displaced decedents of European immigrants. The steady and satisfying job they once were guaranteed is no more and the characters are introduced to the brutal reality: there is always someone willing to work the same job for less pay. The awakening causes anger and open hostility against those who threaten the comfortable life they have known for generations, shown in the play as the African-American and Latino. One may feel a little dismissive of mill workers for the stubbornness that fuels the blatant white privilege and underlying racism just below the surface. Economic stress has merely highlighted what had been there all along, revealing itself in the most transparent manner. On the other hand, so much detail is given about the troubles of each person, the interesting dynamic of each individual’s story, that one cannot help but feel swept up in lives of the characters to the point where one can entirely dismiss them. One is meant to feel both sympathetic and annoyed by the characters, and perhaps simply because one recognized that the world of this play and the real world are closely reflective of one another. The questions then become: Should we feel more or less sympathetic for the Republican Party who elected Trump as president, for immigrants seeking a better life, for our communities, for ourselves?

Leave a reply

Skip to toolbar