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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 13 - 'THE STRENGTH OF GOD'

The setting is mainly the Presbyterian Church of Winesburg, Ohio.

CHARACTER LIST

Major Characters

The Reverend Curtis Hartman - The pastor of the Presbyterian Church, he discovers conflicting emotions, about a woman (Kate Swift) in his heart, which confuses him.

Minor Characters

Kate Swift - A schoolteacher, she has a reputation of being stern and forbidding.


CONFLICT

Protagonist - The Reverend is the main character in the story and his inner confusion is portrayed.

Antagonist - To the Reverend the sight of Kate Swift's white throat and naked shoulders serves as agony as they try to veer him off his path of religion and dedication.

Climax - The climax in the story is when the Reverend catches sight of of Kate weeping bitterly and praying on bended knees. This scene really brings back cohesion in the Reverend's mind.

Outcome - The outcome is that the Reverend is given deliverance, by God, and has been brought back to the right path.

THEMES

The theme is the phony rationalization of God, to absolve themselves of their sins.

MOOD

The mood is dark and somber when the Reverend feels the betrayal of his own self. It continues in the same vein through his self-deception, though false earnestness is seen at the end, when the Reverend feels that the Lord has delivered him.

STORY SUMMARY

Though the Reverend Curtis Hartman is a pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Winesburg, it is a hardship for him to preach his sermons. He prays to the Lord to give him the strength to preach well.

Reverend Curtis is liked by all, but he wonders when the flame of the spirit would really burn in him. One day, as he is reading the Bible, he sees through the opposite window, a woman lying on her bed, smoking a cigarette. He also notices her bare shoulders and white throat, and wild thoughts course through him. That day his speech is impassioned and strong.

The Reverend undergoes the torture of trying in vain to subdue his thoughts, which runs towards the open window. Each day is a battle for him. He tries to keep himself away from the room, but it is in vain. He even thinks if throwing away his chosen career and let-himself be pulled into the vortex of lust and passion.

One night, he sees the lady, who is Kate Swift, a teacher throwing herself naked on to her bed and weeping bitterly. Then she rises and begins to pray.

For Curtis Hartman, this is the ultimate message he has received from god. He rushes out crying that he had found the light, and that God had manifested himself to him in the body of a woman. He fears no more for his soul and feels no more for his soul and feels that finally, he has been delivered.

Notes

This story depicts the presence of human failings in all, be it a mere man or a preacher of the church.

The Reverend's uncertainty about his sermons and his vocation itself shows his failing. He is unsure and uncertain about his own duties towards God and has to repeatedly look towards him for guidance and light.

When the Reverend first sees the woman through his window, he is horror stricken at the thought of a woman smoking, but when he sees her bare shoulders, a fire is awakened in him. From here onwards, the readers see the preacher's true picture, a man easily swayed by the sight of flesh. His need to rationalize his thoughts again speaks for itself. His sudden zeal in preparing his sermons and determination to think as little as possible about the woman reveals the sinfulness of the self and the need for rationalization.

When he breaks the window glass, he is displaying his physical strength. But this display is just an inept cover for his spiritual weakness.

When the Reverend sees the same woman naked, crying and playing, for him, it is like the call of God. He gives to that picture, a meaning that he himself is in dire need of. According to him, the woman of sin is finally supplicating of her sinful doings. For the Reverend, she has become the instrument of God, the message of truth.

This belief is a type of annihilating of his innermost self and deluding himself to believe in what he is saying. However banal this might be it has worked wonders for the Reverends self- confidence. His faith in God and himself has been restored and he has no more fear of himself or his base thoughts.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Curtis Hartman - He is the pastor at the church of Winesburg. Though displaying himself as a religious man, he has qualms about his ability as a preacher. To preach, standing in the pulpit, facing hundreds of people, was always a hardship for him.

Curtis is unable to handle his emotions after having a glimpse of Kate Swift lying on her bed. He is so suffused by guilty emotions that he actually plays with the idea of releasing himself from his post of pastor. On seeing Kate crying and praying to god, he takes it to be a sign from God, to deliver him. His breaking the glass of the window shows his physical strength as well as weakness of his will.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The plot moves evenly, beginning with a depiction of the pastor's steady life, then reaching a crescendo of conflicting doubts and emotion, and finally a return of steadiness at the phony realization of his absolution.

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The reverend has been used to depict the shallowness of men, especially those who wear the cloak of respectability and religious devotion. The author has attacked the very core of these people, through his theme. Man, be he a normal citizen, or a preacher of religion, is subject to amorous feelings. A preacher in fact has more difficulty handling the situation, because of his cloak of dedication. Even at the end, such men consider themselves delivered by one act, and absolve themselves victoriously of their wicked thoughts.

STUDY QUESTIONS

Write an essay on the shallowness often to be seen, clothed under the cloak of religion.

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