DEAL ME IN – WEEK 7
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In picking the Queen of Clubs for Week 7 of my Deal Me In 2015 Short Story Project, I’ve finally introduced myself to Sherwood Anderson and his stories surrounding Winesburg, Ohio. “The Strength of God” goes straight to the heart, mind and soul of Winesburg’s Presbyterian minister, The Reverend Curtis Hartman.
Based on this one story, I would say Anderson’s writing style is simple and straightforward. The story itself appears to be part of a larger tale about the Ohio town. Both Anderson’s style and story remind me of Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. Other things are going on outside of this story, perhaps in other stories; however, that doesn’t keep “The Strength of God” from standing on its own.
Through a broken window in his belltower study, the married Reverend Hartman discovers that he can look into the bedroom window of a neighboring house and view a woman lying on her bed. Nothing happens beyond looking, but the temptation to look induces guilt and torment that almost drives him mad. I think the reason behind this guilt can be found in what I consider one of the more tragic passages I’ve read in a while:
Resolutely the minister put the thoughts of the woman in the bed out of his mind and began to be something like a lover in the presence of his wife.
Anderson doesn’t portray his minister as less than a lover but he’s not an actual lover. He is “something like a lover”. What’s actually driving Reverend Hartman mad? The temptation, the guilt, even sin? Or is it a marriage of passionless mediocrity? At least in this story, the reader doesn’t get the wife’s perspective. What seems like a harmless act perhaps covers major issues with the minister’s character and marriage. One can also guess that most of the inward turmoil within Reverend Hartman isn’t known to the outside world of Winesburg, Ohio – a town I wouldn’t mind visiting again.