- Delia is an abused wife and her jaded view of Sykes and his mistreatment of her grows as the story progresses. Delia comes to feel the same way about her marriage as Sykes does: that the relationship has run its course. Delia portrays a woman from the Deep South in the first half of the 20th Century who comes to discover freedom as independence from men.
- Sykes is a stereotypical abusive husband. He physically and mentally abuses Delia, takes her income while failing to make his own, and has an affair on the side. Despite being out of work, for three months he has paid his mistress Bertha's rent. After he has "wrung every drop of pleasure" out of Delia, he plots to poison her with a rattlesnake, but the plan backfires after he is fatally bitten in the neck.
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