Lynn Nottage

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Sweat: Act 2, Scene 7 Summary & Analysis

October 15, 2008. In the news, U.S. stocks fall 733 points, the second-worst decline in history. In his parole meeting, Chris finishes telling Evan about his encounter with Jason. Evan reassures him that it’s okay not to feel angry at Jason anymore—forgiveness is the easier path. Chris shares how the night of the assault, he’d planned on driving down to Philadelphia to go clubbing with friends and then visit Albright College the next day. He regrets not walking away from the bar. Now, he feels like people only look at him like a criminal. He prays for forgiveness, but all he sees are closed doors in front of him.
This headline indicates that in the eight years that have passed since Act Two, Scene 6, the U.S. economy is still struggling—it seems that working-class communities like Reading’s have been unable to escape financial hardship. Meanwhile, Chris’s struggle to forgive himself is an example what can happen if a person is unable to overcome shame and self-blame: rather than being able to move forward and achieve his goals, Chris is paralyzed by his perception that he’s undeserving of or excluded from life’s opportunities.
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Evan shifts, and the scene switches. He’s now talking with Jason. Evan suggests that Jason and Chris meet up to talk. Jason hasn’t thought about the assault in a long time, but now everything in Reading reminds him of that day. Jason felt too depressed staying with Tracey, so now he’s camping in the woods. He hasn’t been able to focus since running into Chris—he remembers the “blind fury” when he attacked Oscar and admits that he hasn’t been able to shake it since. Evan tells Jason that he’s experiencing shame, and that this is a crippling, unproductive emotion that can destroy people. In Jason and Chris’s separate meetings, Evan asks what each man is going to do about the present moment, and Jason and Chris both answer that they hear him.
Like Chris, Jason is held back by the shame he feels over assaulting Oscar—but whereas Chris’s shame manifests in self-doubt, Jason’s is expressed through “blind fury” at himself and others, which could easily lead to further violence down the line. In either case, their reactions are counterproductive. Evan’s advice to both men echoes Stan’s sentiments from Act Two, Scene 6 and serves as one of the most important messages of the book: everyone makes mistakes, and in order to move on and prevent further damage to oneself and others, it’s imperative that people learn to let go of shame and forgive themselves.
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