Anderson in 1933
|Born||(1876-09-13)September 13, 1876|
Camden, Ohio, United States
|Died||March 8, 1941(1941-03-08) (aged 64)|
|Notable works||Winesburg, Ohio|
|Spouse||Cornelia Pratt Lane (1904–1916)|
Tennessee Claflin Mitchell (1916–1924)
Elizabeth Prall (1924–1932)
Eleanor Copenhaver (1933–1941)
Sherwood Anderson (September 13, 1876 – March 8, 1941) was an American novelist and short story writer, known for subjective and self-revealing works. Self-educated, he rose to become a successful copywriter and business owner in Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio. In 1912, Anderson had a nervous breakdown that led him to abandon his business and family to become a writer.
At the time, he moved to Chicago and was eventually married three more times. His most enduring work is the short-story sequence Winesburg, Ohio, which launched his career. Throughout the 1920s, Anderson published several short story collections, novels, memoirs, books of essays, and a book of poetry. Though his books sold reasonably well, Dark Laughter (1925), a novel inspired by Anderson's time in New Orleans during the 1920s, was the only bestseller of his career.
Sherwood Berton Anderson was born on September 13, 1876 in Camden, Ohio, a farming town with a population of around 650 (according to the 1870 census). He was the third of seven children born to Emma Jane (née Smith) and former Union soldier and harness-maker Irwin McLain Anderson. Considered reasonably well-off financially—Anderson's father was seen as an up-and-comer by his Camden contemporaries, the family left town just before Sherwood's first birthday. Reasons for the departure are uncertain; most biographers note rumors of debts incurred by either Irwin or his brother Benjamin. The Andersons headed north to Caledonia by way of a brief stay in a village of a few hundred called Independence (now Butler). Four or five years were spent in Caledonia, years which formed Anderson's earliest memories. This period later inspired his semi-autobiographical novel Tar: A Midwest Childhood (1926). In Caledonia Anderson's father began drinking excessively, which led to financial difficulties, eventually causing the family to leave the town.
With each move, Irwin Anderson's prospects dimmed; while in Camden he was the proprietor of a successful shop and could employ an assistant; by the time the Andersons finally settled down in Clyde, Ohio in 1884, a frontier town, Irwin could only get work as a hired man to harness manufacturers. That job was short-lived, and for the rest of Sherwood Anderson's childhood, his father barely supported the family as an occasional sign-painter and paperhanger, while his mother took in washing to make ends meet. Partly as a result of these misfortunes, young Sherwood became adept at finding various odd jobs to help his family, earning the nickname "Jobby."
Though he was a decent student, Anderson's attendance at school declined as he began picking up work, and he finally left school for good at age 14 after about nine months of high school. From the time he began to cut school to the time he left town, Anderson worked as a "...newsboy, errand boy, waterboy, cow-driver, stable groom, and perhaps printer's devil, not to mention assistant to Irwin Anderson, Sign Painter..." in addition to assembling bicycles for the Elmore Manufacturing Company. Even in his teens, Anderson's talent for selling was evident, a talent he would later draw on it in a successful career in advertising. As a newsboy he was said to have convinced a tired farmer in a saloon to buy two copies of the same evening paper. With the exception of work, Anderson's childhood resembled that of other boys his age.
In addition to participating in local events and spending time with his friends, Anderson was a voracious reader. Though there were only a few books in the Anderson home (The Pilgrim's Progress and the Complete Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson among them), the youth read widely by borrowing from the school library (there was not a public library in Clyde until 1903), and the personal libraries of a school superintendent and John Tichenor, a local artist, who responded to Anderson's interest.
By Anderson's 18th year in 1895, his family was on shaky ground. His father had started to disappear for weeks. Two years earlier, in 1893, Karl, Sherwood's elder brother, had left Clyde for Chicago. On May 10, 1895, his mother succumbed to tuberculosis. Sherwood, now essentially on his own, boarded at the Harvey & Yetter's livery stable where he worked as a groom—an experience that would translate into several of his best-known stories. (Irwin Anderson died in 1919 after having been estranged from his son for two decades.) Two months before his mother's death, in March 1895, Anderson had signed up with the Ohio National Guard for a five-year hitch  while he was going steady with Bertha Baynes, an attractive girl and possibly the inspiration for Helen White in Winesburg, Ohio, and he was working a secure job at the bicycle factory. But his mother's death precipitated the young man's leaving Clyde. He settled in Chicago around late 1896 or spring/summer 1897, having worked a few small-town factory jobs along the way.
Chicago and war
Finding a place to stay in Chicago was not as difficult for Anderson as it was for many others arriving in Chicago around the same time. In fact, the former mayor of Clyde and his family ran a boardinghouse in the city where Anderson's brother Karl, then studying at the Art Institute, already lived. Anderson moved in with his brother and quickly found a job at a cold-storage plant. In late 1897, Karl moved away, and Anderson relocated to a two-room flat with his sister and two younger brothers newly come from Clyde. Money was tight—Anderson earned "two dollars for a day of ten hours"— but with occasional support from Karl, they got by. Following the example of his Clyde confederate and lifelong friend Cliff Paden (later to become known as John Emerson) and Karl, Anderson took up the idea of furthering his education by enrolling in night school at the Lewis Institute. He attended several classes regularly including "New Business Arithmetic" earning marks that placed him second in the class. It was also there that Anderson heard lectures on Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, and was possibly first introduced to the poetry of Walt Whitman. Soon, however, Anderson's first stint in Chicago would come to an end as the United States prepared to enter the Spanish–American War.
Though poor in Chicago, Anderson bought a new suit on the way back to Clyde to join his Company. Once back home, the Company was fêted by the ladies of Clyde before officially enlisting (sans six men who returned to Clyde) into the new federal army at Camp Bushnell, Ohio on May 12, 1898. Several months of training followed at various southern encampments until early in 1899 when the Company finally made its way to Cuba four months after fighting had stopped. Another four months later, on April 21, 1899, they left Cuba having been in no action or danger. According to Irving Howe, "Sherwood was popular among his army comrades, who remembered him as a fellow given to prolonged reading, mostly in dime westerns and historical romances, and talented at finding a girl when he wanted one. For the first of these traits he was frequently teased, but the second brought him the respect it usually does in armies."
After the war, Anderson spent a few months back in Clyde doing agricultural work before deciding that in order to advance in life he would need to once again go back to school. So in September 1899 Anderson joined his siblings Karl and Stella in Springfield, Ohio where, at the age of twenty-three, he enrolled in what amounted to a senior year of high school at the Wittenberg Academy, a preparatory school located on the campus of the Wittenberg University. In his three terms there during the years 1899-1900, Anderson did quite well earning mostly A's in a variety of subjects and participating in several extracurricular activities including a debate club, called the Athenian Literary Society. In the spring of 1900 Anderson graduated from the Academy, offering a discourse on Zionism as one of the eight students chosen to give a commencement speech.
Business, marriage and family
During his time in Springfield, Anderson stayed and worked as a "chore boy" in a boardinghouse called The Oaks among a group of businessmen, educators, and other creatives types many of whom became friendly with the young Anderson. In particular, a high school teacher named Trillena White and a businessman Harry Simmons played a role in the author's life. The former who was ten years Anderson's senior would walk—raising eyebrows among the other boarders—with the young man in the evenings. More importantly, according to Anderson, she "first introduced me to fine literature" and would later serve as inspiration for a number of his characters including the teacher Kate Swift in Winesburg, Ohio. The latter, who worked as the advertising manager for Mast, Crowell, and Kirkpatrick (later Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, publishers of the Woman's Home Companion) and occasionally took meals at The Oaks, was so impressed by Anderson's commencement speech that he offered him a job on the spot as an advertising solicitor at his company's Chicago office. Thus, in the summer of 1900, Anderson returned to Chicago where most of his siblings were now living, intent on achieving success in his new white-collar occupation.
Though he performed well, problems with his boss and a dislike for the office routine and for the style of correspondence, which caused the ultimate rift, caused Anderson to leave Crowell in mid-1901 for a position set up for him by Marco Marrow, another friend from The Oaks, at the Frank B. White Advertising Company (later the Long-Critchfield Agency). There the author stayed until 1906, selling ads and writing advertising copy for manufacturers of farming implements and articles for the trade journal, Agricultural Advertising. In this latter magazine Anderson published his first professional work, a February 1902 piece called "The Farmer Wears Clothes." What followed were approximately 29 articles and essays for his company's magazine, and two for a small literary magazine published by the Bobbs-Merrill Company called The Reader. According to scholar Welford Dunaway Taylor, the two monthly columns ("Rot and Reason" and "Business Types") Anderson wrote for Agricultural Advertising exemplified the "character writing" (or character sketches) that would later become a notable part of the author's approach in Winesburg, Ohio and other works.
Part of Anderson's job in those early years of his career was making trips to solicit potential clients. On one of these trips around May 1903 he stopped in the home of a friend from Clyde, Jane "Jennie" Bemis, then living in Toledo, Ohio. It was there that he met Cornelia Pratt Lane (1877–1967), the daughter of wealthy Ohio businessman Robert Lane. The two were married a year later, on the 16th of May, in Lucas, Ohio. They would go on to have three children—Robert Lane (1907–1951), John Sherwood (1908–1995), and Marion (aka Mimi, 1911–1996). After a short honeymoon, the couple moved into an apartment on the south side of Chicago. For two more years, Anderson worked for Long-Critchfield until an opportunity came along from one of the accounts he managed and so on Labor Day 1906, Sherwood Anderson left Chicago for Cleveland to become president of United Factories Company, a mail-order firm selling various items from surrounding firms.
While his new job, which amounted to the position of sales manager, could be stressful the happy home life Cornelia had fostered in Chicago continued in Cleveland; "his wife and he entertained frequently. They went to church on Sundays, with Anderson decked out in morning clothes and top hat. On occasional Sunday afternoons Cornelia taught him French. She also helped with his advertising work." Unfortunately, his home life could not sustain him when one of the manufacturers United Factories marketed produced a large batch of defective incubators. Soon, letters addressed to Anderson (who personally guaranteed all products sold) began to arrive from customers both desperate and angry. The strain from months of answering hundreds of these letters while continuing his demanding schedule at work and home led to a nervous breakdown in the summer of 1907 and eventually his departure from the company.
His failure in Cleveland did not delay him for long, however, because in September 1907, the Andersons moved to Elyria, Ohio, a town of approximately ten thousand residents, where he rented a warehouse within sight of the railroad and began a mail-order business selling (at a markup of 500%) a preservative paint called "Roof-Fix." The first years in Elyria went very well for Anderson and his family; two more children were added for a total of three in addition to a busy social life for their parents. So well, in fact, did the Anderson Manufacturing Co. do that Anderson was able to purchase and absorb several similar businesses and expand his firm's product-lines under the name Anderson Paint Company. Carrying on that momentum, in late 1911 Anderson secured the financial backing to merge his companies into the American Merchants Company, a profit-sharing/investment firm operating in part on a scheme he developed around that time called "Commercial Democracy."
It was then, at what seemed the pinnacle of his business achievements, when the stresses of Anderson's professional life collided with his social responsibilities and his writing, that Anderson suffered the breakdown that has remained paramount in the "myth" or "legend" of Sherwood Anderson's life.
On Thursday, November 28, 1912, Anderson came to his office in a slightly nervous state. According to his secretary, he opened some mail, and in the course of dictating a business letter became distracted. After writing a note to his wife, he murmured something along the lines of "I feel as though my feet were wet, and they keep getting wetter."[note 1] and left the office. Four days later, on Sunday December 1, a disoriented Anderson entered a drug store on East 152nd Street in Cleveland and asked the pharmacist to help figure out his identity. Unable to make out what the incoherent Anderson was saying, the pharmacist discovered a phone book on his person and called the number of Edwin Baxter, a member of the Elyria Chamber of Commerce. Baxter came, recognized Anderson, and promptly had him checked into the Huron Road Hospital in downtown Cleveland, where Anderson's wife, who he would hardly recognize, went to meet him.
But even before returning home, Anderson began his lifelong practice of reinterpreting the story of his breakdown. Despite news reports in the Elyria Evening Telegram and the Cleveland Press following his admittance into the hospital that ascribed the cause of the breakdown to "overwork" and that mentioned Anderson's inability to remember what happened, on December 6 the story changed. All of a sudden, the breakdown became voluntary. The Evening Telegram reported (possibly spuriously) that "As soon as he recovers from the trance into which he placed himself, Sherwood Anderson ... will write a book of the sensations he experienced while he wandered over the country as a nomad." This same sense of personal agency is alluded to thirty years later in Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs (1942) where the author wrote of his thought process before walking out: "I wanted to leave, get away from business. ... Again I resorted to slickness, to craftiness...The thought occurred to me that if men thought me a little insane they would forgive me if I lit out...." This idea, however, that Anderson made a conscious decision on November 28 to make a clean break from family and business is unlikely. In the first place, contrary to what Anderson later claimed, his writing was no secret. It was known to his wife, secretary, and some business associates that for several years Anderson had been working on personal writing projects both at night and occasionally in his office at the factory. Secondly, though some of the notes he wrote to himself during his journey, notes he mailed to his wife on Saturday, addressing the envelope "Cornelia L. Anderson, Pres., American Striving Co.," show that he had some semblance of memory. The general confusion and frequent incoherence the notes exhibit is unlikely to be deliberate. While diagnoses for the four days of Anderson's wanderings have ranged from "amnesia" to "lost identity" to "nervous breakdown," his condition is generally characterized today as a "fugue state." Anderson himself described the episode as "escaping from his materialistic existence," and was admired for his action by many young male writers who chose to be inspired by him. Herbert Gold wrote, "He fled in order to find himself, then prayed to flee that disease of self, to become 'beautiful and clear.'"
After having moved back to Chicago, Anderson formally divorced Cornelia. Later, he married his mistress, the sculptor Tennessee Claflin Mitchell (1874–1929). Anderson divorced Mitchell in 1924 in Reno, Nevada, and soon the same year married his third wife, Elizabeth Prall, a woman he was already involved with before the divorce.
Anderson's first novel, Windy McPherson's Son, was published in 1916 as part of a three-book deal with John Lane. This book, along with his second novel, Marching Men (1917) are usually considered his "apprentice novels" because they came before Anderson found fame with Winesburg, Ohio (1919) and are generally considered inferior in quality to works that followed.
Anderson's most notable work is his collection of interrelated short stories, Winesburg, Ohio (1919). In his memoir, he wrote that "Hands", the opening story, was the first "real" story he ever wrote.
"Instead of emphasizing plot and action, Anderson used a simple, precise, unsentimental style to reveal the frustration, loneliness, and longing in the lives of his characters. These characters are stunted by the narrowness of Midwestern small-town life and by their own limitations."
In addition, Anderson was one of the first American novelists to introduce new insights from psychology, including Freudian analysis.
Although his short stories were very successful, Anderson wanted to write novels, which he felt allowed a larger scale. In 1920, he published Poor White, which was rather successful. In 1923, Anderson published Many Marriages; in it he explored the new sexual freedom, a theme which he continued in Dark Laughter and later writing.Dark Laughter had its detractors, but the reviews were, on the whole, positive. F. Scott Fitzgerald considered Many Marriages to be Anderson's finest novel.
Beginning in 1924, Sherwood and Elizabeth Prall Anderson moved to New Orleans, where they lived in the historic Pontalba Apartments (540-B St. Peter Street) adjoining Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. For a time, they entertained William Faulkner, Carl Sandburg, Edmund Wilson and other writers, for whom Anderson was a major influence. Critics trying to define Anderson's significance have said he was more influential through this younger generation who he influenced than by his own works.
Anderson referred to meeting Faulkner in his ambiguous and moving short story, "A Meeting South." His novel Dark Laughter (1925) drew from his New Orleans experiences and continued to explore the new sexual freedom of the 1920s. Although the book is now out of print (and was satirized by Ernest Hemingway in his novella The Torrents of Spring), it was a bestseller at the time, the only book of Anderson's to reach that status during his lifetime.
Two more marriages
Anderson obtained a divorce from Tennessee Claflin Mitchell in Reno, Nevada in 1924.
That year Anderson married Elizabeth Norma Prall (1884–1976), a friend of Faulkner's whom he had met in New York. After several years that marriage also failed. In 1928 Anderson became involved with Eleanor Gladys Copenhaver (1896–1985).
In 1933, Anderson and Copenhaver married. They traveled and often studied together. They were both active in the trade union movement. Anderson also became close to Copenhaver's mother, Laura.
Anderson frequently contributed articles to newspapers. In 1935, he was commissioned to go to Franklin County, Virginia to cover a major federal trial of bootleggers and gangsters, in what was called "The Great Moonshine Conspiracy". More than 30 men had been indicted for trial. In his article, he said Franklin was the "wettest county in the world," a phrase used as a title for a 21st-century novel by Matt Bondurant.
In the 1930s, Anderson published Death in the Woods (short stories), Puzzled America (essays), and Kit Brandon: A Portrait (novel). In 1932, Anderson dedicated his novel Beyond Desire to Copenhaver. Although by this time he was considered to be less influential overall in American literature, some of what have become his most quoted passages were published in these later works. The books were otherwise considered below the level of quality of his earlier ones.
Beyond Desire built on his interest in the trade union movement and was set during the 1929 Loray Mill Strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. Hemingway referred to it satirically in his novel, To Have and Have Not (1937), where he included as a minor character an author working on a novel of Gastonia.
In his later years, Anderson and Copenhaver lived on his Ripshin Farm in Troutdale, Virginia, which he purchased in 1927 for use during summers. While living there, he contributed to a country newspaper, columns that were later collected and published posthumously.
Anderson died on March 8, 1941, at the age of 64, taken ill during a cruise to South America. He had been feeling abdominal discomfort for a few days, which was later diagnosed as peritonitis. Anderson and his wife disembarked from the cruise liner Santa Lucia and went to the hospital in Colón, Panama, where he died on March 8. An autopsy revealed he had accidentally swallowed a toothpick, which had damaged his internal organs and resulted in infection and then peritonitis. He was thought to have swallowed it in the course of eating the olive of a martini or hors d'oeuvres.
Anderson's body was returned to the United States, where he was buried at Round Hill Cemetery in Marion, Virginia. His epitaph reads, "Life, Not Death, is the Great Adventure".
Legacy and honors
Short story collections
- Mid-American Chants (1918)
- A New Testament (1927)
- Plays, Winesburg and Others (1937)
- A Story Teller's Story (1924, memoir)
- The Modern Writer (1925, essays)
- Sherwood Anderson's Notebook (1926, memoir)
- Hello Towns! (1929, collected newspaper articles)
- Nearer the Grass Roots (1929, essays)
- The American County Fair (1930, essays)
- Perhaps Women (1931, essays)
- No Swank (1934, essays)
- Puzzled America (1935, essays)
- A Writer's Conception of Realism (1939, essays)
- Home Town (1940, photographs and commentary)
- Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs (1942)
- The Sherwood Anderson Reader, edited by Paul Rosenfeld (1947)
- The Portable Sherwood Anderson, edited by Horace Gregory (1949)
- Letters of Sherwood Anderson, edited by Howard Mumford Jones and Walter B. Rideout (1953)
- Sherwood Anderson: Short Stories, edited by Maxwell Geismar (1962)
- Return to Winesburg: Selections from Four Years of Writing for a Country Newspaper, edited by Ray Lewis White (1967)
- The Buck Fever Papers, edited by Welford Dunaway Taylor (1971, collected newspaper articles)
- Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein: Correspondence and Personal Essays, edited by Ray Lewis White (1972)
- The "Writer's Book," edited by Martha Mulroy Curry (1975, unpublished works)
- France and Sherwood Anderson: Paris Notebook, 1921, edited by Michael Fanning (1976)
- Sherwood Anderson: The Writer at His Craft, edited by Jack Salzman, David D. Anderson, and Kichinosuke Ohashi (1979)
- A Teller's Tales, selected and introduced by Frank Gado (1983)
- Sherwood Anderson: Selected Letters: 1916–1933, edited by Charles E. Modlin (1984)
- Letters to Bab: Sherwood Anderson to Marietta D. Finely, 1916–1933, edited by William A. Sutton (1985)
- The Sherwood Anderson Diaries, 1936–1941, edited by Hilbert H. Campbell (1987)
- Sherwood Anderson: Early Writings, edited by Ray Lewis White (1989)
- Sherwood Anderson's Love Letters to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, edited by Charles E. Modlin (1989)
- Sherwood Anderson's Secret Love Letters, edited by Ray Lewis White (1991)
- Certain Things Last: The Selected Stories of Sherwood Anderson, edited by Charles E. Modlin (1992)
- Southern Odyssey: Selected Writings by Sherwood Anderson, edited by Welford Dunaway Taylor and Charles E. Modlin (1997)
- The Egg and Other Stories, edited with an introduction by Charles E. Modlin (1998)
- Collected Stories, edited by Charles Baxter (2012)
- ^Anderson, Sherwood (1876–1941) | St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture Summary
- ^ abcRideout (2006), 16
- ^Schevill (1951), 8
- ^Howe (1951), 12
- ^Townsend (1987), 3
- ^Rideout (2006), 18
- ^ abRideout (2006), 20. For connection between Tar and Caledonia, also see Anderson (1942), 14-16
- ^Townsend (1987), 4
- ^Howe (1951), 13-14
- ^Rideout (2006), 34
- ^ abTownsend (1987), 14. The chapter about Anderson's early life is called "Jobby."
- ^ abcHowe (1951), 16
- ^Rideout (2006), 39
- ^Townsend (1987), 25-26
- ^Rideout (2006), 37-38. See Anderson (1924), 155-56 for list of authors enjoyed by young Anderson
- ^Townsend (1987), 11
- ^Spanierman Gallery, LLC. KARL ANDERSON (1874 - 1956). Accessed 26 May 2013.
- ^Townsend (1987), 28
- ^Rideout (2006), 59-61
- ^ abTownsend (1987), 30
- ^Rideout (2006), 50
- ^Rideout (2006), 47
- ^Townsend (1987), 31
- ^Howe (1951), 27
- ^Rideout (2006), 69-71
- ^Townsend (1987), 33
- ^Townsend (1987), 34
- ^Anderson (1942), 112
- ^ abRideout (2006), 73–74
- ^Townsend (1987), 36
- ^Townsend (1987), 38
- ^Rideout (2006), 78
- ^Townsend (1987), 39–41
- ^Howe (1951), 29
- ^Townsend (1987), 41
- ^Rideout (2006), 88–90
- ^ abHowe (1951), 31–32
- ^Anderson (1984), 227–228
- ^ abTownsend (1987), 42–43
- ^Rideout (2006), 226
- ^Rideout (2006), 92–93
- ^Daugherty (1948), 31
- ^See Rideout (2006), 95–110 & Anderson (1989) for analysis and the collected early work, respectively
- ^Rideout (2006), 95
- ^Campbell, Hilbert H (Summer 1998). "The Early non-Journal Writings". The Sherwood Anderson Review23 (2).
- ^Taylor, Welford Dunaway (Winter 1998). "Remembered "Characters" in Winesburg, Ohio". The Winesburg Eagle23 (1).
- ^Rideout(2006), 133
- ^Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993
- ^Rideout (2006), 112–114
- ^A copy of Sherwood Anderson's honeymoon journal is available in the Sherwood Anderson Review (Summer 1998)
- ^Rideout (2006), 122–123
- ^Townsend (1987), 59–60
- ^Schevill (1951), 45
- ^Rideout (2006), 126–128
- ^Daugherty (1948), 33
- ^Howe (1951), 41–42
- ^Rideout (2006), 134
- ^Rideout (2006), 137–138
- ^Sutton (1967), 9–12
- ^Schevill (1951), 55
- ^ abHowe (1951), 49
- ^ abWhite (1972), xii–xiv
- ^Rideout (2006), 149–155
- ^Most Anderson's biographers agree on the events included here. For a general sense, see Rideout (2006), 155–156; Schevill (1951), 52–59; Townsend (1987), 76–82.
- ^See issues of December 2nd and 3rd for the former and December 3rd for the latter
- ^Sutton (1967), 43–44
- ^Elyria Evening Telegram(06 December 1912) as quoted in Schevill (1951), 59
- ^Anderson (1942), 194
- ^Sutton (1967), 12
- ^Rideout (2006), 157
- ^Sutton (1967), 36–39 offers the complete text of the notes with analysis, and several other biographers including Townsend (1987) and Rideout (2006) analyze and print selections.
- ^Townsend (1987), 81
- ^Sperber, Michael (05 June 2013). "[Dissociative Amnesia (Psychogenic Fugue) and a Literary Masterpiece http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychogenic-fugue-literature]" Psychiatric Times. Accessed 11 November 2013.
- ^Ridout (2006), 156–157
- ^ abBalakian, Nona (10 July 1988). "A Life of Dark Laughter". NY Times. Accessed 31 May 2013.
- ^Gold (1957–1958), 548
- ^Bassett (2005), p. 21
- ^Anderson, Elizabeth and Gerald R. Kelly (1969). Miss Elizabeth. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
- ^Howe (1951), 91
- ^Anderson, Sherwood. Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1942.
- ^ abcDaniel Mark Fogel,"Sherwood Anderson", The American Novel, PBS, 2007, accessed 2 June 2013
- ^Howe, Irving. Sherwood Anderson. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1951. (pg. 254)
- ^Anderson (1991), pp. 8–9
- ^Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South, University of North Carolina
- ^"Virginia Women in History 2007: Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver".
- ^Fisher, Ann H. (7/1/2008). "The Wettest Country in the World [Review]". Library Journal. 133 (12): 58.
- ^"Ripshin Farm". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- ^Return to Winesburg: Selections from Four Years of Writing for a Country Newspaper, edited by Ray Lewis White (1967)
- ^"Anderson is Dead; Noted Author; 64". New York Times, 9 March 1941, p. 41.
- ^Rideout (2006), 400–401
- ^Howe (1951), 241
- ^"Sherwood Anderson". findagrave.com. Accessed April 22, 2012.
- ^"Sherwood Anderson". Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. 2012. Retrieved 2017-10-08.
- ^Howe (1951), 208
- Anderson, Elizabeth and Gerald R. Kelly (1969). "Miss Elizabeth". Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
- Anderson, Sherwood (1924). A Story Teller's Story. New York: B.W. Huebsch.
- Anderson, Sherwood (1942). Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
- Anderson, Sherwood (1984). Sherwood Anderson: Selected Letters. Edited by Charles Modlin. Knoxville, TN: Tennessee UP. ISBN 9780870494048
- Anderson, Sherwood (1989). Early Writings. Ed. Ray Lewis White. Kent and London: Kent State UP, 1989. ISBN 0873383745
- Anderson, Sherwood (1991). Sherwood Anderson's Secret Love Letters. Edited by Ray Lewis White. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press. ISBN 9780807125021
- Bassett, John Earl (2005). Sherwood Anderson: An American Career. Plainsboro, NJ: Susquehanna UP. ISBN 1-57591-102-7
- Cox, Leland H., Jr. (1980), "Sherwood Anderson", American Writers in Paris, 1920–1939, Dictionary of Literary Biography, 4, Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co.
- Daugherty, George H. (December 1948). "Anderson, Advertising Man". The Newberry Library Bulletin. Second Series, No. 2.
- Gold, Herbert (Winter, 1957-1958). "The Purity and Cunning of Sherwood Anderson". The Hudson Review 10 (4): 548-557.
- Howe, Irving (1951). Sherwood Anderson. New York: William Sloane Associates.
- Rideout, Walter B. (2006). Sherwood Anderson: A Writer in America, Volume 1. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-21530-9
- Schevill, James (1951). Sherwood Anderson: His Life and Work. Denver, CO: University of Denver Press.
- Sutton, William A. (1967). Exit to Elsinore. Muncie, IN: Ball State UP.
- Townsend, Kim (1987). Sherwood Anderson: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-36533-3
- White, Ray Lewis (1972). "Introduction". in White, Ray Lewis (ed). Marching Men. Cleveland, OH: Case Western Reserve University. ISBN 0-8295-0216-5
- Bibliowiki has original media or text related to this article: Sherwood Anderson (in the public domain in Canada)
- Works by Sherwood Anderson at Project Gutenberg
- Works by Sherwood Anderson at Project Gutenberg Australia
- Works by or about Sherwood Anderson at Internet Archive
- Works by Sherwood Anderson at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Sherwood Anderson Biography
- Sherwood Anderson Biography 2
- Sherwood Anderson in the Dial
- Sherwood Anderson Links
- Winesburg, Ohio hypertext from American Studies at the University of Virginia.
- The Triumph of the Egg hypertext from American Studies at the University of Virginia.
- Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson from Oral Histories of the American South
- Sherwood Anderson Papers at The Newberry Library
- Sherwood Anderson Archive at the Smyth-Bland Regional Library
- Sherwood Anderson Literary Center
- Ten Stories by Sherwood Anderson read aloud by contemporary writers including Charles Baxter, Deborah Eisenberg, Robert Boswell, Patricia Hampl, Siri Hustvedt, Ben Marcus, Rick Moody, Antonya Nelson and Benjamin Taylor
- I am a fool Persian Translation, E-Book at Taaghche.ir
- ^The quote above comes from the Frances Shute, Anderson's secretary at the time, as cited in Rideout (2006), 155. In Anderson (1924), it was remembered as "I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet. My feet are cold, wet and heavy from long wading in a river. Now I shall go walk on dry land," whereas in Anderson (1942), it was "My feet are cold and wet. I have been walking too long on the bed of a river."
The New Englander
Her name was Elsie Leander and her girlhood was spent on her father's farm in Vermont. For several generations the Leanders had all lived on the same farm and had all married thin women, and so she was thin. The farm lay in the shadow of a mountain and the soil was not very rich. From the beginning and for several generations there had been a great many sons and few daughters in the family. The sons had gone west or to New York City and the daughters had stayed at home and thought such thoughts as come to New England women who see the sons of their fathers' neighbors slipping away, one by one, into the West.
Her father's house was a small white frame affair and when you went out at the back door, past a small barn and chicken house, you got into a path that ran up the side of a hill and into an orchard. The trees were all old and gnarled. At the back of the orchard the hill dropped away and bare rocks showed.
Inside the fence a large grey rock stuck high up out of the ground. As Elsie sat with her back to the rock, with a mangled hillside at her feet, she could see several large mountains, apparently but a short distance away, and between herself and the mountains lay many tiny fields surrounded by neatly built stone walls. Everywhere rocks appeared. Large ones, too heavy to be moved, stuck out of the ground in the centre of the fields. The fields were like cups filled with a green liquid that turned grey in the fall and white in the winter. The mountains, far off but apparently near at hand, were like giants ready at any moment to reach out their hands and take the cups one by one and drink off the green liquid. The large rocks in the fields were like the thumbs of the giants.
Elsie had three brothers, born before her, but they had all gone away. Two of them had gone to live with her uncle in the West and her oldest brother had gone to New York City where he had married and prospered. All through his youth and manhood her father had worked hard and had lived a hard life, but his son in New York City had begun to send money home, and after that things went better. He still worked every day about the barn or in the fields but he did not worry about the future. Elsie's mother did house work in the mornings and in the afternoons sat in a rocking chair in her tiny living room and thought of her sons while she crocheted table covers and tidies for the backs of chairs. She was a silent woman, very thin and with very thin bony hands. She did not ease herself into a rocking chair but sat down and got up suddenly, and when she crocheted her back was as straight as the back of a drill sergeant.
The mother rarely spoke to the daughter. Sometimes in the afternoons as the younger woman went up the hillside to her place by the rock at the back of the orchard, her father came out of the barn and stopped her. He put a hand on her shoulder and asked her where she was going. "To the rock," she said and her father laughed. His laughter was like the creaking of a rusty barn door hinge and the hand he had laid on her shoulders was thin like her own hands and like her mother's hands. The father went into the barn shaking his head. "She's like her mother. She is herself like a rock," he thought. At the head of the path that led from the house to the orchard there was a great cluster of bayberry bushes. The New England farmer came out of his barn to watch his daughter go along the path, but she had disappeared behind the bushes. He looked away past his house to the fields and to the mountains in the distance. He also saw the green cup-like fields and the grim mountains. There was an almost imperceptible tightening of the muscles of his half worn-out old body. For a long time he stood in silence and then, knowing from long experience the danger of having thoughts, he went back into the barn and busied himself with the mending of an agricultural tool that had been mended many times before.
The son of the Leanders who went to live in New York City was the father of one son, a thin sensitive boy who looked like Elsie. The son died when he was twenty-three years old and some years later the father died and left his money to the old people on the New England farm. The two Leanders who had gone west had lived there with their father's brother, a farmer, until they grew into manhood. Then Will, the younger, got a job on a railroad. He was killed one winter morning. It was a cold snowy day and when the freight train he was in charge of as conductor left the city of Des Moines, he started to run over the tops of the cars. His feet slipped and he shot down into space. That was the end of him.
Of the new generation there was only Elsie and her brother Tom, whom she had never seen, left alive. Her father and mother talked of going west to Tom for two years before they came to a decision. Then it took another year to dispose of the farm and make preparations. During the whole time Elsie did not think much about the change about to take place in her life.
The trip west on the railroad train jolted Elsie out of herself. In spite of her detached attitude toward life she became excited. Her mother sat up very straight and stiff in the seat in the sleeping car and her father walked up and down in the aisle. After a night when the younger of the two women did not sleep but lay awake with red burning cheeks and with her thin fingers incessantly picking at the bed clothes in her berth while the train went through towns and cities, crawled up the sides of hills and fell down into forest-clad valleys, she got up and dressed to sit all day looking at a new kind of land. The train ran for a day and through another sleepless night in a flat land where every field was as large as a farm in her own country. Towns appeared and disappeared in a continual procession. The whole land was so unlike anything she had ever known that she began to feel unlike herself. In the valley where she had been born and where she had lived all her days everything had an air of finality. Nothing could be changed. The tiny fields were chained to the earth. They were fixed in their places and surrounded by aged stone walls. The fields like the mountains that looked down at them were as unchangeable as the passing days. She had a feeling they had always been so, would always be so.
Elsie sat like her mother, upright in the car seat and with a back like the back of a drill sergeant. The train ran swiftly along through Ohio and Indiana. Her thin hands like her mother's hands were crossed and locked. One passing casually through the car might have thought both women prisoners handcuffed and bound to their seats. Night came on and she again got into her berth. Again she lay awake and her thin cheeks became flushed, but she thought new thoughts. Her hands were no longer gripped together and she did not pick at the bed clothes. Twice during the night she stretched herself and yawned, a thing she had never in her life done before. The train stopped at a town on the prairies, and as there was something the matter with one of the wheels of the car in which she lay the trainsmen came with flaming torches to tinker it. There was a great pounding and shouting. When the train went on its way she wanted to get out of her berth and run up and down in the aisle of the car. The fancy had come to her that the men tinkering with the car wheel were new men out of the new land who with strong hammers had broken away the doors of her prison. They had destroyed forever the programme she had made for her life.
Elsie was filled with joy at the thought that the train was still going on into the West. She wanted to go on forever in a straight line into the unknown. She fancied herself no longer on a train and imagined she had become a winged thing flying through space. Her long years of sitting alone by the rock on the New England farm had got her into the habit of expressing her thoughts aloud. Her thin voice broke the silence that lay over the sleeping car and her father and mother, both also lying awake, sat up in their berth to listen.
Tom Leander, the only living male representative of the new generation of Leanders, was a loosely built man of forty inclined to corpulency. At twenty he had married the daughter of a neighboring farmer, and when his wife inherited some money she and Tom moved into the town of Apple Junction in Iowa where Tom opened a grocery. The venture prospered as did Tom's matrimonial venture. When his brother died in New York City and his father, mother, and sister decided to come west Tom was already the father of a daughter and four sons.
On the prairies north of town and in the midst of a vast level stretch of cornfields, there was a partly completed brick house that had belonged to a rich farmer named Russell who had begun to build the house intending to make it the most magnificent place in the county, but when it was almost completed he had found himself without money and heavily in debt. The farm, consisting of several hundred acres of corn land, had been split into three farms and sold. No one had wanted the huge unfinished brick house. For years it had stood vacant, its windows staring out over the fields that had been planted almost up to the door.
In buying the Russell house Tom was moved by two motives. He had a notion that in New England the Leanders had been rather magnificent people. His memory of his father's place in the Vermont valley was shadowy, but in speaking of it to his wife he became very definite. "We had good blood in us, we Leanders," he said, straightening his shoulders. "We lived in a big house. We were important people."
Wanting his father and mother to feel at home in the new place, Tom had also another motive. He was not a very energetic man and, although he had done well enough as keeper of a grocery, his success was largely due to the boundless energy of his wife. She did not pay much attention to her household and her children, like little animals, had to take care of themselves, but in any matter concerning the store her word was law.
To have his father the owner of the Russell place Tom felt would establish him as a man of consequence in the eyes of his neighbors. "I can tell you what, they're used to a big house," he said to his wife. "I tell you what, my people are used to living in style."* * * * *
The exaltation that had come over Elsie on the train wore away in the presence of the grey empty Iowa fields, but something of the effect of it remained with her for months. In the big brick house life went on much as it had in the tiny New England house where she had always lived. The Leanders installed themselves in three or four rooms on the ground floor. After a few weeks the furniture that had been shipped by freight arrived and was hauled out from town in one of Tom's grocery wagons. There were three or four acres of ground covered with great piles of boards the unsuccessful farmer had intended to use in the building of stables. Tom sent men to haul the boards away and Elsie's father prepared to plant a garden. They had come west in April and as soon as they were installed in the house ploughing and planting began in the fields nearby. The habit of a lifetime returned to the daughter of the house. In the new place there was no gnarled orchard surrounded by a half-ruined stone fence. All of the fences in all of the fields that stretched away out of sight to the north, south, east, and west were made of wire and looked like spider webs against the blackness of the ground when it had been freshly ploughed.
There was however the house itself. It was like an island rising out of the sea. In an odd way the house, although it was less than ten years old, was very old. Its unnecessary bigness represented an old impulse in men. Elsie felt that. At the east side there was a door leading to a stairway that ran into the upper part of the house that was kept locked. Two or three stone steps led up to it. Elsie could sit on the top step with her back against the door and gaze into the distance without being disturbed. Almost at her feet began the fields that seemed to go on and on forever. The fields were like the waters of a sea. Men came to plough and plant. Giant horses moved in a procession across the prairies. A young man who drove six horses came directly toward her. She was fascinated. The breasts of the horses as they came forward with bowed heads seemed like the breasts of giants. The soft spring air that lay over the fields was also like a sea. The horses were giants walking on the floor of a sea. With their breasts they pushed the waters of the sea before them. They were pushing the waters out of the basin of the sea. The young man who drove them also was a giant.* * * * *
Elsie pressed her body against the closed door at the top of the steps. In the garden back of the house she could hear her father at work. He was raking dry masses of weeds off the ground preparatory to spading it for a family garden. He had always worked in a tiny confined place and would do the same thing here. In this vast open place he would work with small tools, doing little things with infinite care, raising little vegetables. In the house her mother would crochet little tidies. She herself would be small. She would press her body against the door of the house, try to get herself out of sight. Only the feeling that sometimes took possession of her, and that did not form itself into a thought would be large.
The six horses turned at the fence and the outside horse got entangled in the traces. The driver swore vigorously. Then he turned and started at the pale New Englander and with another oath pulled the heads of the horses about and drove away into the distance. The field in which he was ploughing contained two hundred acres. Elsie did not wait for him to return but went into the house and sat with folded arms in a room. The house she thought was a ship floating in a sea on the floor of which giants went up and down.
May came and then June. In the great fields work was always going on and Elsie became somewhat used to the sight of the young man in the field that came down to the steps. Sometimes when he drove his horses down to the wire fence he smiled and nodded.* * * * *
In the month of August, when it is very hot, the corn in Iowa fields grows until the corn stalks resemble young trees. The corn fields become forests. The time for the cultivating of the corn has passed and weeds grow thick between the corn rows. The men with their giant horses have gone away. Over the immense fields silence broods.
When the time of the laying-by of the crop came that first summer after Elsie's arrival in the West her mind, partially awakened by the strangeness of the railroad trip, awakened again. She did not feel like a staid thin woman with a back like the back of a drill sergeant, but like something new and as strange as the new land into which she had come to live. For a time she did not know what was the matter. In the field the corn had grown so high that she could not see into the distance. The corn was like a wall and the little bare spot of land on which her father's house stood was like a house built behind the walls of a prison. For a time she was depressed, thinking that she had come west into a wide open country, only to find herself locked up more closely than ever.
An impulse came to her. She arose and going down three or four steps seated herself almost on a level with the ground.
Immediately she got a sense of release. She could not see over the corn but she could see under it. The corn had long wide leaves that met over the rows. The rows became long tunnels running away into infinity. Out of the black ground grew weeds that made a soft carpet of green. From above light sifted down. The corn rows were mysteriously beautiful. They were warm passageways running out into life. She got up from the steps and, walking timidly to the wire fence that separated her from the field, put her hand between the wires and took hold of one of the corn stalks. For some reason after she had touched the strong young stalk and had held it for a moment firmly in her hand she grew afraid. Running quickly back to the step she sat down and covered her face with her hands. Her body trembled. She tried to imagine herself crawling through the fence and wandering along one of the passageways. The thought of trying the experiment fascinated but at the same time terrified. She got quickly up and went into the house.* * * * *
One Saturday night in August Elsie found herself unable to sleep. Thoughts, more definite than any she had ever known before, came into her mind. It was a quiet hot night and her bed stood near a window. Her room was the only one the Leanders occupied on the second floor of the house. At midnight a little breeze came up from the south and when she sat up in bed the floor of corn tassels lying below her line of sight looked in the moonlight like the face of a sea just stirred by a gentle breeze.
A murmuring began in the corn and murmuring thoughts and memories awoke in her mind. The long wide succulent leaves had begun to dry in the intense heat of the August days and as the wind stirred the corn they rubbed against each other. A call, far away, as of a thousand voices arose. She imagined the voices were like the voices of children. They were not like her brother Tom's children, noisy boisterous little animals, but something quite different, tiny little things with large eyes and thin sensitive hands. One after another they crept into her arms. She became so excited over the fancy that she sat up in bed and taking a pillow into her arms held it against her breast. The figure of her cousin, the pale sensitive young Leander who had lived with his father in New York City and who had died at the age of twenty-three, came into her mind. It was as though the young man had come suddenly into the room. She dropped the pillow and sat waiting, intense, expectant.
Young Harry Leander had come to visit his cousin on the New England farm during the late summer of the year before he died. He had stayed there for a month and almost every afternoon had gone with Elsie to sit by the rock at the back of the orchard. One afternoon when they had both been for a long time silent he began to talk. "I want to go live in the West," he said. "I want to go live in the West. I want to grow strong and be a man," he repeated. Tears came into his eyes.
They got up to return to the house, Elsie walking in silence beside the young man. The moment marked a high spot in her life. A strange trembling eagerness for something she had not realized in her experience of life had taken possession of her. They went in silence through the orchard but when they came to the bayberry bush her cousin stopped in the path and turned to face her. "I want you to kiss me," he said eagerly, stepping toward her.
A fluttering uncertainty had taken possession of Elsie and had been transmitted to her cousin. After he had made the sudden and unexpected demand and had stepped so close to her that his breath could be felt on her cheek, his own cheeks became scarlet and his hand that had taken her hand trembled. "Well, I wish I were strong. I only wish I were strong," he said hesitatingly and turning walked away along the path toward the house.
And in the strange new house, set like an island in its sea of corn, Harry Leander's voice seemed to arise again above the fancied voices of the children that had been coming out of the fields. Elsie got out of bed and walked up and down in the dim light coming through the window. Her body trembled violently. "I want you to kiss me," the voice said again and to quiet it and to quiet also the answering voice in herself she went to kneel by the bed and taking the pillow again into her arms pressed it against her face.* * * * *
Tom Leander came with his wife and family to visit his father and mother on Sundays. The family appeared at about ten o'clock in the morning. When the wagon turned out of the road that ran past the Russell place Tom shouted. There was a field between the house and the road and the wagon could not be seen as it came along the narrow way through the corn. After Tom had shouted, his daughter Elizabeth, a tall girl of sixteen, jumped out of the wagon. All five children came tearing toward the house through the corn. A series of wild shouts arose on the still morning air.
The groceryman had brought food from the store. When the horse had been unhitched and put into a shed he and his wife began to carry packages into the house. The four Leander boys, accompanied by their sister, disappeared into the near-by fields. Three dogs that had trotted out from town under the wagon accompanied the children. Two or three children and occasionally a young man from a neighboring farm had come to join in the fun. Elsie's sister-in-law dismissed them all with a wave of her hand. With a wave of her hand she also brushed Elsie aside. Fires were lighted and the house reeked with the smell of cooking. Elsie went to sit on the step at the side of the house. The corn fields that had been so quiet rang with shouts and with the barking of dogs.
Tom Leander's oldest child, Elizabeth, was like her mother, full of energy. She was thin and tall like the women of her father's house but very strong and alive. In secret she wanted to be a lady but when she tried her brothers, led by her father and mother, made fun of her. "Don't put on airs," they said. When she got into the country with no one but her brothers and two or three neighboring farm boys she herself became a boy. With the boys she went tearing through the fields, following the dogs in pursuit of rabbits. Sometimes a young man came with the children from a near-by farm. Then she did not know what to do with herself. She wanted to walk demurely along the rows through the corn but was afraid her brothers would laugh and in desperation outdid the boys in roughness and noisiness. She screamed and shouted and running wildly tore her dress on the wire fences as she scrambled over in pursuit of the dogs. When a rabbit was caught and killed she rushed in and tore it out of the grasp of the dogs. The blood of the little dying animal dripped on her clothes. She swung it over her head and shouted.
The farm hand who had worked all summer in the field within sight of Elsie became enamoured of the young woman from town. When the groceryman's family appeared on Sunday mornings he also appeared but did not come to the house. When the boys and dogs came tearing through the fields he joined them. He also was self-conscious and did not want the boys to know the purpose of his coming and when he and Elizabeth found themselves alone together he became embarrassed. For a moment they walked together in silence. In a wide circle about them, in the forest of the corn, ran the boys and dogs. The young man had something he wanted to say, but when he tried to find words his tongue became thick and his lips felt hot and dry. "Well," he began, "let's you and me--"
Words failed him and Elizabeth turned and ran after her brothers and for the rest of the day he could not manage to get her out of their sight. When he went to join them she became the noisiest member of the party. A frenzy of activity took possession of her. With hair hanging down her back, with clothes torn and with cheeks and hands scratched and bleeding she led her brothers in the endless wild pursuit of the rabbits.* * * * *
The Sunday in August that followed Elsie Leander's sleepless night was hot and cloudy. In the morning she was half ill and as soon as the visitors from town arrived she crept away to sit on the step at the side of the house. The children ran away into the fields. An almost overpowering desire to run with them, shouting and playing along the corn rows took possession of her. She arose and went to the back of the house. Her father was at work in the garden, pulling weeds from between rows of vegetables. Inside the house she could hear her sister-in-law moving about. On the front porch her brother Tom was asleep with his mother beside him. Elsie went back to the step and then arose and went to where the corn came down to the fence. She climbed awkwardly over and went a little way along one of the rows. Putting out her hand she touched the firm stalks and then, becoming afraid, dropped to her knees on the carpet of weeds that covered the ground. For a long time she stayed thus listening to the voices of the children in the distance.
An hour slipped away. Presently it was time for dinner and her sister- in-law came to the back door and shouted. There was an answering whoop from the distance and the children came running through the fields. They climbed over the fence and ran shouting across her father's garden. Elsie also arose. She was about to attempt to climb back over the fence unobserved when she heard a rustling in the corn. Young Elizabeth Leander appeared. Beside her walked the ploughman who but a few months earlier had planted the corn in the field where Elsie now stood. She could see the two people coming slowly along the rows. An understanding had been established between them. The man reached through between the corn stalks and touched the hand of the girl who laughed awkwardly and running to the fence climbed quickly over. In her hand she held the limp body of a rabbit the dogs had killed.
The farm hand went away and when Elizabeth had gone into the house Elsie climbed over the fence. Her niece stood just within the kitchen door holding the dead rabbit by one leg. The other leg had been torn away by the dogs. At sight of the New England woman, who seemed to look at her with hard unsympathetic eyes, she was ashamed and went quickly into the house. She threw the rabbit upon a table in the parlor and then ran out of the room. Its blood ran out on the delicate flowers of a white crocheted table cover that had been made by Elsie's mother.
The Sunday dinner with all the living Leanders gathered about the table was gone through in a heavy lumbering silence. When the dinner was over and Tom and his wife had washed the dishes they went to sit with the older people on the front porch. Presently they were both asleep. Elsie returned to the step at the side of the house but when the desire to go again into the cornfields came sweeping over her she got up and went indoors.
The woman of thirty-five tip-toed about the big house like a frightened child. The dead rabbit that lay on the table in the parlour had become cold and stiff. Its blood had dried on the white table cover. She went upstairs but did not go to her own room. A spirit of adventure had hold of her. In the upper part of the house there were many rooms and in some of them no glass had been put into the windows. The windows had been boarded up and narrow streaks of light crept in through the cracks between the boards.
Elsie tip-toed up the flight of stairs past the room in which she slept and opening doors went into other rooms. Dust lay thick on the floors. In the silence she could hear her brother snoring as he slept in the chair on the front porch. From what seemed a far away place there came the shrill cries of the children. The cries became soft. They were like the cries of unborn children that had called to her out of the fields on the night before.
Into her mind came the intense silent figure of her mother sitting on the porch beside her son and waiting for the day to wear itself out into night. The thought brought a lump into her throat. She wanted something and did not know what it was. Her own mood frightened her. In a windowless room at the back of the house one of the boards over a window had been broken and a bird had flown in and become imprisoned.
The presence of the woman frightened the bird. It flew wildly about. Its beating wings stirred up dust that danced in the air. Elsie stood perfectly still, also frightened, not by the presence of the bird but by the presence of life. Like the bird she was a prisoner. The thought gripped her. She wanted to go outdoors where her niece Elizabeth walked with the young ploughman through the corn, but was like the bird in the room--a prisoner. She moved restlessly about. The bird flew back and forth across the room. It alighted on the window sill near the place where the board was broken away. She stared into the frightened eyes of the bird that in turn stared into her eyes. Then the bird flew away, out through the window, and Elsie turned and ran nervously downstairs and out into the yard. She climbed over the wire fence and ran with stooped shoulders along one of the tunnels.
Elsie ran into the vastness of the cornfields filled with but one desire. She wanted to get out of her life and into some new and sweeter life she felt must be hidden away somewhere in the fields. After she had run a long way she came to a wire fence and crawled over. Her hair became unloosed and fell down over her shoulders. Her cheeks became flushed and for the moment she looked like a young girl. When she climbed over the fence she tore a great hole in the front of her dress. For a moment her tiny breasts were exposed and then her hand clutched and held nervously the sides of the tear. In the distance she could hear the voices of the boys and the barking of the dogs. A summer storm had been threatening for days and now black clouds had begun to spread themselves over the sky. As she ran nervously forward, stopping to listen and then running on again, the dry corn blades brushed against her shoulders and a fine shower of yellow dust from the corn tassels fell on her hair. A continued crackling noise accompanied her progress. The dust made a golden crown about her head. From the sky overhead a low rumbling sound, like the growling of giant dogs, came to her ears.
The thought that having at last ventured into the corn she would never escape became fixed in the mind of the running woman. Sharp pains shot through her body. Presently she was compelled to stop and sit on the ground. For a long time she sat with closed eyes. Her dress became soiled. Little insects that live in the ground under the corn came out of their holes and crawled over her legs.
Following some obscure impulse the tired woman threw herself on her back and lay still with closed eyes. Her fright passed. It was warm and close in the room-like tunnels. The pain in her side went away. She opened her eyes and between the wide green corn blades could see patches of a black threatening sky. She did not want to be alarmed and so closed her eyes again. Her thin hand no longer gripped the tear in her dress and her little breasts were exposed. They expanded and contracted in spasmodic jerks. She threw her hands back over her head and lay still.
It seemed to Elsie that hours passed as she lay thus, quiet and passive under the corn. Deep within her there was a feeling that something was about to happen, something that would lift her out of herself, that would tear her away from her past and the past of her people. Her thoughts were not definite. She lay still and waited as she had waited for days and months by the rock at the back of the orchard on the Vermont farm when she was a girl. A deep grumbling noise went on in the sky overhead but the sky and everything she had ever known seemed very far away, no part of herself.
After a long silence, when it seemed to her that she had gone out of herself as in a dream, Elsie heard a man's voice calling. "Aho, aho, aho," shouted the voice and after another period of silence there arose answering voices and then the sound of bodies crashing through the corn and the excited chatter of children. A dog came running along the row where she lay and stood beside her. His cold nose touched her face and she sat up. The dog ran away. The Leander boys passed. She could see their bare legs flashing in and out across one of the tunnels. Her brother had become alarmed by the rapid approach of the thunder storm and wanted to get his family to town. His voice kept calling from the house and the voices of the children answered from the fields.
Elsie sat on the ground with her hands pressed together. An odd feeling of disappointment had possession of her. She arose and walked slowly along in the general direction taken by the children. She came to a fence and crawled over, tearing her dress in a new place. One of her stockings had become unloosed and had slipped down over her shoe top. The long sharp weeds had scratched her leg so that it was criss-crossed with red lines, but she was not conscious of any pain.
The distraught woman followed the children until she came within sight of her father's house and then stopped and again sat on the ground. There was another loud crash of thunder and Tom Leander's voice called again, this time half angrily. The name of the girl Elizabeth was shouted in loud masculine tones that rolled and echoed like the thunder along the aisles under the corn.
And then Elizabeth came into sight accompanied by the young ploughman. They stopped near Elsie and the man took the girl into his arms. At the sound of their approach Elsie had thrown herself face downward on the ground and had twisted herself into a position where she could see without being seen. When their lips met her tense hands grasped one of the corn stalks. Her lips pressed themselves into the dust. When they had gone on their way she raised her head. A dusty powder covered her lips.
What seemed another long period of silence fell over the fields. The murmuring voices of unborn children, her imagination had created in the whispering fields, became a vast shout. The wind blew harder and harder. The corn stalks were twisted and bent. Elizabeth went thoughtfully out of the field and climbing the fence confronted her father. "Where you been? What you been a doing?" he asked. "Don't you think we got to get out of here?"
When Elizabeth went toward the house Elsie followed, creeping on her hands and knees like a little animal, and when she had come within sight of the fence surrounding the house she sat on the ground and put her hands over her face. Something within herself was being twisted and whirled about as the tops of the corn stalks were now being twisted and whirled by the wind. She sat so that she did not look toward the house and when she opened her eyes she could again see along the long mysterious aisles.
Her brother with his wife and children went away. By turning her head Elsie could see them driving at a trot out of the yard back of her father's house. With the going of the younger woman the farm house in the midst of the cornfield rocked by the winds seemed the most desolate place in the world.
Her mother came out at the back door of the house. She ran to the steps where she knew her daughter was in the habit of sitting and then in alarm began to call. It did not occur to Elsie to answer. The voice of the older woman did not seem to have anything to do with herself. It was a thin voice and was quickly lost in the wind and in the crashing sound that arose out of the fields. With her head turned toward the house Elsie stared at her mother who ran wildly around the house and then went indoors. The back door of the house went shut with a bang.
The storm that had been threatening broke with a roar. Broad sheets of water swept over the cornfields. Sheets of water swept over the woman's body. The storm that had for years been gathering in her also broke. Sobs arose out of her throat. She abandoned herself to a storm of grief that was only partially grief. Tears ran out of her eyes and made little furrows through the dust on her face. In the lulls that occasionally came in the storm she raised her head and heard, through the tangled mass of wet hair that covered her ears and above the sound of millions of rain-drops that alighted on the earthen floor inside the house of the corn, the thin voices of her mother and father calling to her out of the Leander house.
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