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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 14 - 'THE TEACHER'

SETTING

The story is set in the town of Winesburg.

CHARACTER LIST

Major Characters

Kate Swift - She was once the schoolteacher of George Willard, but almost has a sexual encounter with him.

Minor Characters

George - Kate's pupil at one time, he doesn't mind the idea of taking her in his arms.


CONFLICT

Protagonist - Kate's feelings and emotions are dealt with, in this story, which makes her the protagonist.

Antagonist - It is only Kate's inexplicable feelings for George, which acts as an antagonist for Kate.

Climax - The climax is reached when Kate, unable to suppress her desires, goes to George’s room and allows him to hold her in her arms.

Outcome - The outcome however is not anticipatory. At the final moment Kate stops George from going any further and flees back home.

THEMES

The theme in the story is the uncontrollable impulses of human nature, which are difficult to subdue or suppress. At the same time, societal norms and their pressures have been jointly dealt with.

MOOD

The mood in the story is exclusive. Kate's ambivalent mood is conveyed strongly and so is George’s awakened desire. The mood is heightened with sensual overtones when Kate goes to meet George.

STORY SUMMARY

It has snowed heavily in Winesburg, and George Willard, who has nothing to do, walks around, thinking of Kate Swift, the teacher. He has lustful thoughts of her as well as Helen White, as he tries to sleep in his room, in the New Willard House. The night watchman is also asleep, dreaming about breeding his ferrets and making money.

Kate Swift, in her house, is awake. She suddenly leaves her room and goes out. Her mind is filled with thoughts of George. Earlier on, when she had once met him, he had stirred her heart but she embarrassed by her overtures, left him. Now she goes to George's room and talks to him in an inspired manner. She then almost gives in to her physical desires and puts her arm around George’s shoulders, but guilt overcomes her, and she leaves.

After the incident at George’s office Kate goes back to her room and cries on her knees as if praying to God. It is in such a state that the Reverend Curtis Hartman had seen her, in her room from his window. While she sobbed and prayed, George is baffled at the Reverend’s claim who frantically runs to his office to tell him that the woman (he had held in his arm a moment ago,) is an instrument of God bearing a message of truth.

George, in his room is unable to comprehend fully the happenings. All he feels is that he has missed what Kate Swift was trying to tell him.

Notes

We see here a delicate linking between this story and the earlier one 'The strength of god'. At the beginning, the same character, Kate Swift, is reproduced, but not as a mere figure which hypnotizes the Reverend but as a real person, with desires and frustration.

Kate had always been a picture of a typical schoolmistress, silent cold, and stern. Yet she was close to her students and made stories of dead writers, alive for them, though underneath this stern exterior hides a woman with feelings and desires. For her, George is a schoolboy, whose genius should be extracted. At the same time, her womanly feelings were awakening with him, and this confused and agreed her. As later for the young George, she is an elder lady with a marked beauty.

On the night of the storm, Kate feels an eagerness to open the door of life to this young genius. Her passion however turns physical. The intense struggle inside her has been strongly displayed.

For George, the words of the minister seems insane, as he knows who the woman really is. We thus see a portrayal of the same woman, seen by the eyes of two different men, and its consequent analysis. The minister is merely justifying his own sinful thoughts and proclaiming them under the veneer of Godliness. But George exactly knows the truth and is only troubled that he has failed to understand what Kate had been trying to tell him.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Kate Swift - Kate Swift is a schoolteacher, whose pupil was once George Willard. Even in those days, Kate had recognized the spark of genius in him and tried to bring home to his mind the difficulties he would have to face as a writer. But her senses were attuned to his just-grown man appeal. Much later, she still has his thoughts in her mind for him and she almost gives herself to him, but for a last effort of will. It is after this encounter of Kate with George, that Revered Curtis sees her through her window, crying and praying, and believes that the Lord has sent her as his messenger with the message of truth.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The story begins with an inessential description of Hop Higgins the night watchman and his duty. It then goes on to first describe George in his room, thinking about Kate and later Kate in her room, thinking about George. Then a reference to Kate's past is mentioned after which Kate is shown going to George's office.

The earlier story 'The strength of God' is linked to this story. The same Kate, who had enchanted the Reverend Curt, has her story told in this story. The third factor is George, who is shown at the end wondering how the girl a few minutes back in his arms, could have become the instrument for the message of God.

The climax of the story is noticed when Kate is unable to restrict herself and virtually falls into George’s arms. She however disengages herself and leaves. The outcome is the insistent feeling in George that Kate was trying to tell him something, but it is too late to know now.

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The theme in this story is put across as the uncontrollable urges of the body, which can shake man's inner being to the core. Kate is unable to resist the demands of her body as far as George is concerned. Though knowing fully well, that he was her student, and years younger to her, she is unable to resist. As for George, he is a growing man, and his needs must be fulfilled.

At the last minute, Kate is able to control herself because of the immense pressures of society, which always hangs over a person's head. These laws enable her to save herself from letting her fall from her state.

STUDY QUESTIONS

Give a character sketch of Kate Swift.

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