Saturday, January 10, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Sherwood Anderson's "The Strength of God"

There is nothing fancy about Sherwood Anderson's writing style.  He has a story to tell, and he generally takes a straightforward approach that allows him tell his story as simply as he can.  It is almost as if Anderson were sitting next to you at some social gathering and telling one story after the other.  His style, in fact, is what makes him as popular, and readily accessible, a writer as he continues to be to this day.

"The Strength of God," is a story from the book that brought Anderson first fame in 1919, Winesburg, Ohio.  It tells the tale of small town preacher Curtis Hartman, a man so filled with self-doubt about his ability to preach an inspired sermon, that from Wednesday morning on, all he can think about are the two sermons he has to preach on Sunday. Self-confidence is definitely not this man's strong suit.

Sherwood Anderson
One night, while working on a sermon in his upstairs church study, temptation comes Reverend Hartman's way in the person of the young woman he spots in a bedroom of the house next door to his church.  Shockingly, the woman is smoking a cigarette and is dressed in a gown that exposes her bare shoulders and throat to the reverend's gaze from inside his church.  A mini crisis-of-faith will follow this unexpected, but not unappreciated, vision.

In his usual direct style, Anderson relates the effect that this sighting has upon the good reverend.  Will he become a regular "peeper?"  Will he succumb to temptation to the point that he dumps his wife and courts the woman in the window?  Will he lose his faith?  In only seven pages, Anderson brings the process from start to finish...and the reader gets another glance into early twentieth-century life in Winesburg, Ohio.

Collection from which this story is taken:


  1. I need to read Sherwood Anderson. He's one of my American Lit gaps.

    1. I've been using short story collections to help close a bunch of lit gaps, Susan. It's the quickest way for me to determine if I want to read more of some of the authors I've missed, or if I should just move on to the next gaping hole in my reading past.