- Domestic abuse
- Sykes abuses Delia physically by beating her, economically by taking her income, and emotionally by putting her down for her body type. The story investigates the psychological effects of an abusive relationship.
Empowerment and Survival
- The working life versus the trifling life
- The story's title "Sweat" refers to all the physical labor that Delia performs, which contrasts with Sykes' life of leisure and entitlement. The story does not refer to any job or income for Sykes, but he does somehow pay his mistress Bertha's rent, and he and his mistress even go on "stomps" -- probably dates at a nightclub.