Nobody Knows, A Man of Ideas, Godliness, Adventure
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The story "Godliness” by Sherwood
Anderson tells us about an old man Jessy, who has all his life dreamt of a son,
but he had only a daughter. Jessy seems to have an inner conflict – he is
subject to two influences. The first one is about the success in life and money
that he can earn by sensible investing into his land. The second is his sacral
attitude to God and his power. Both of them worry Jessy, and when he’s doing
his best to achieve success, he forgets about God, but then he feels sorry for
this – he becomes an ardent devotee.
The story is full of Bible allusions.
At first Jessy is compared to Abraham, whose faith in God was tested by
Himself. To be more precise, it’s Jessy who thinks that he should prove his godliness
to God. That’s why he takes his grandson David to the wood to get to God’s revelation,
but he doesn’t get any – the boy is afraid and runs away. Some time passes and
the boy is a young man already, and Jessy thinks that he should repeat his appeal
to God. He brings David to the woods again, and here we see an allusion to
David and Goliath. David takes the stone and throws it into Jessy, who falls
down. The boy thinks he is dead and runs away of the town – he would never be
seen again. This is regarded by Jessy as the God’s sign, and he becomes complete
crazy. This is how a story of one grotesque character in the story ends. It’s
probably important that David ran away from the town and its life – he is the only
"normal” character here.
Another grotesque character is Luisa
– Jessie’s daughter. She is said to be neurotic and the main reason for this is
her father’s willingness to have a boy instead of a girl. She was a reserved
child and she has also grown up as a mad woman. She does insensible things in
life, after which she feels sorry. This is a shining example of how "grotesque truth”
delusion comes from one generation to the next one. Luisa doesn’t love her son pretty much, and once
she says: "Had it been a woman child there is nothing in the world I would not
have done for it."
All in the entire story tells us
about the Jessy’s obsession with religion and his vigorous desire to get a message
from God. The theme of industrialization and modernization also goes throughout
the story. In the end we see that Jessy says about David’s absence: "God punished
me for my greed for glory”. Nothing is
left obscure by Anderson, and this is a great advantage of the story – it seems
to be the most exact and detailed of all the previous ones.
The most distinctive element of the story is a
certain thematic line that was conveyed through stylistically-coloured language
thus serving as an indicator of the author’s willingness to draw the reader’s
attention to the details. The author creates a certain mood right from the
beginning of the story. Plenty of lexical units hint at the fact that something
is going to happen. Looking cautiously
about, went hurriedly out at the back door, pitch dark, a cat sprang under the
feet, ran away, nervous, trembled as though with fright, going carefully.
The intensification of the mood grows into a sort of apprehension. The reader
starts to realize that the main character, George Willard is up to something
that makes him worried and that should not be found out by anyone. He takes up
his action late in the evening; he goes out through the back door onto the
valley back of the Eagle office. The author emphasizes that the character has
been experiencing this unusual agitation throughout the day and couldn’t
concentrate on his work. "He was like one dazed by a blow” – this is the
comparison. The reader starts to realize that this blow is something that
happened to George early in the day, a piece of news that struck him like a
Luise Trunnion was the one who disturbed
George’s routine way of life. Having sent him a note with the frankest and
unequivocal hints, she turned out to be the girl on whom the young man decided
to set an adventure. He came to her house; she pretended she hadn’t been
waiting for him. George felt he had to behave as a man – aggressive,
persistent, bald-headed. "They began to
walk along a narrow brick sidewalk between the cracks of which tall weeds grow.
Some of the bricks were missing and the sidewalk was rough and irregular.” This
sense of something rough and irregular penetrates the whole story and
conveys the atmosphere of moral corruption.
The characters dethrone love without
understanding the value of people’s relations. George neglects the fact that he
simply does know the girl. The girl is simply indifferent to her reputation and
the rumors about her. So the characters interpret the affair as a step in life
while in some other society it would thought upon as a dirty intrigue
disgraceful for young people. Later George starts to feel there was something
wrong in his night outing and nervousness ran back to him. He wants no one to
find it out but he does not understand that even if somebody knew, this
wouldn’t stir his beaten life path.
A Man of Ideas
Welling was a small man who lived with his grey, silent mother beyond Main
Street. He had a reputation for being odd because of his frequent and
uncontrollable speech. He always demanded attention. Joe worked for the
Standard Oil Company as an agent in Winesburg and the surrounding towns. People
who lived in the town watched him wearily, they were not afraid of him but
aware of his outbursts.
George Willard had come into contact with Joe
after George became reporter of the Winesburg Eagle. Joe felt that he should
have George's job since he was so talented at finding stories. He wanted George
to write about fire as decay and how everything in the world was on fire. After
George had been had worked for a year, Joe's mother died and Joe moved into the
New Willard House. He formed the Winesburg Baseball Club so he could be the
manager and gained the respect of the town because of the Club's winning ways.
Under his influence, the boys followed his every move.
this time, Joe also fell in love with Sarah King. Sarah's father, Edward, and
brother, Tom, were overly proud and violent but Joe did not seem frightened.
The town laughed at the odd pair when they were walking together. The town
worried that Joe would get hurt when a meeting was planned between him and the
King men. When Joe arrived holding weeds in his arms, George wanted to laugh.
As soon as Joe began talking, George knew he would make the Kings listen to him
as he did all others. Joe, absorbed in his ideas, lectured the men on the
possibility of a new vegetable kingdom. Sarah had warned Joe not to tell them
his ideas, but he did not listen to her. Joe wanted to grow new vegetables from
the grasses and weeds. As George listened, Joe persuaded the Kings to travel to
their house so that he could share his ideas with Sarah. George watched from
his window as the two Kings hurried to keep apace with Joe.
is grotesque because he cannot control his outbursts. At the same time the town
gains respect for him when he runs a baseball team. The term team is very
important as we see the communal bonds which Joe forms and helps manage. The
team he coaches begins to move as one and they succeed. Then when Joe begins a
affair with Sarah King, the town laughs. But this love affair does not end
unhappily. Joe conquers the Kings. Probably this last name is chosen
intentionally to symbolize, hyperbolically, that Joe's grotesque character is
even more effective than a king.
Most of Anderson’s short
stories were written as a response and a challenge to what American called "the
most materialistic age in the history of the world”. The Adventure presents us a woman of
twenty-seven. All her life she had lived in Winesburg. When she was a girl of sixteen
Alice had an affair with a young man Ned Currie. He was alter than Alice. After
Ned’s leaving to seek his fortune in Chicago Alice became lonely, every day she
dreamed of her lover’s return and it becomes her fixed idea. Sometimes when she
was alone in the store Alice would weep "Oh Ned I am waiting!”
The unhappiness of woman
both married and unmarried is a persistent theme in Winsburg, Ohio running
through the lives of Elizabeth Willard, Luise Bentley and etc. The story is a
train of events and thoughts in Alice's life. It begins with a flashback of her
younger days when she has been in love with Ned and had let him become her
lover. The theme of a relationship between a man and a woman is depicted. The
story deals with a woman's faith in her man, for which she is ready to spend
her life waiting for his return. The theme revolves around a woman's thankless
faithfulness, and her final acceptance of her lonely life. And this giving in
to physical longing leads to Alice Hindman’s "grotesquerie”. At the end of the
story, the theme of acceptance and resignation has been portrayed. Though Alice’s
love has not diminished, she has however become resigned to her fate.
A town of rotten minds
Winesburg is a small town
whose citizens represent different types of people, different
characters, each of them having his own obsession. The main character
of the story "Nobody knows” is George Willard, familiar to the
reader as Elisabeth Willard's son. The plot of the story is focused
on one evening when George met Louise Trunnion.
At the beginning of the
story the author represents an image of a dull town, he describes the
people who live there and the atmosphere of monotony and certain
despair is created by the narration. The reader witnesses the people
and he understands that the evening shown is just the same as all
other evenings in the town.
But then we see that this
sequence of daily occupations is broken - "George Willard had
set forth upon an adventure”. A shade of intrigue comes to the
narration. what adventure can one experience in this town, where
boredom of daily routine prevails over people's desire to live? The
reader is waiting for certain action, he is following the character's
flow of thoughts that hints at something unusual and atypical of the
character. - "all the day he had been trying to make up his mind
to go through with the adventure and now he was acting”. "he did
not dare to think. In his mind there was a fear but it was a new
kind of fear. He was afraid the adventure on which he had set up out
would be spoiled, that he would lose courage and turn back”.
But everything turns out
to be just an ordinary affair with a country girl. How dull and
hopeless the life in the town should be, if this affair is regarded
as a great "adventure”!
It is a town whose
citizens seem to be locked in, having no chance to escape this beaten
path and not fall into a rut. It is a town where people's feelings
are buried, people try to find any way out, they want to love and be
loved but don't know what love is. For them, any kind of spiritual
relationships between people is reduced to "act of love”, no
matter with whom and no matter where. They are people of broken
standards of morality, who long for feelings but get only illusion
and that makes them ashamed of themselves and disappointed in life.
The story "Godliness consists of
four parts, each being a separate story. These four minor stories are
interconnected and interrelated. But they reveal only the surface. In order to
get a deeper understanding of the whole stories one should read all the four
parts and only then draw conclusions about the characters.
There are 3 main characters in the
story: Jesse Bentley, his daughter Louise and his grandson David Hardy.
When Jesse is introduced, he immediately sets up a great contrast between
the type of man he is and the men his father and brothers were. Anderson writes, "By the standards of his day Jesse did not
look like a man at all. He was small and very slender and womanish of body"
Jesse is a split personality. He is a grotesque character. He wants to be a man
of God and, at the same time, he strives for money. Jesse's tragedy is his
tendency to ignore all human life around him and all of his emotional
sensibilities in order to drive toward a goal of money or power. Materialism
and immaterialism, the sense of intrapersonal dualism make this character so
interesting to Anderson.
Jesse is a metaphor for the theme of
disillusioned modern man. He seems to be ridiculous at times but practically
all the people are like him. We don’t treasure what we posses and are never
satisfied with what we have. Sometimes it is enough to let your happiness pass
symbolizes the chosen one. He is an allusion to the Biblical David from David
and Goliath (Jesse being Goliath here).
also a mad and a grotesque character. She is grotesque because she wishes to be
loved. Loise is not bad. She is just what she is because of the society she
lives in. It has ruined her. She can’t cope with the environment she has to deal.
To conclude, "Godliness” is the
story about the downfall of people trying to substitute the rules of the
society by their own gains.