Skip over navigation

Winesburg, Ohio

Sherwood Anderson

"Tandy," "The Strength of God," "The Teacher"

"Adventure," "Respectability," "The Thinker"

"Loneliness," "An Awakening"

Summary

The section entitled "Tandy" is extremely brief, describing how a girl named Tandy Hard comes by her name. She is the daughter of Winesburg's leading atheist, Tom Hard, who enjoys arguing against the existence of God. One day, while she is seven years old, a drunken man staggers by the porch where she is sitting with her father. He launches into a speech about the perfect woman, encouraging the little girl to be that woman, whose name, he insists, will be "Tandy." After he staggers off, the seven-year-old bursts into tears and demands that her father always call her "Tandy Hard."

"The Strength of God" tells the story of the Reverend Curtis Hartman, the prosperous and popular minister of Winesburg's Presbyterian Church. Reverend Hartman is in the habit of writing sermons in his church's bell tower; looking out the tower window one day, he spies a young woman named Kate Swift, a local school teacher, lying on a bed in a nearby house. Hartman had married the first girl he courted, and has thus had limited experience with women. Kate Swift soon has a bizarre hold over him. His sermons become more passionate and personal as he wrestles with sexual temptation, and he finds himself going up to the bell tower at random times, in the hope of catching a glimpse of her. This temptation plagues him terribly, but he cannot find a way to free himself of it. Eventually, one January night, he goes up to the bell tower, deciding that he will give himself entirely to sin. She does not appear for a long time, and the coldness in the tower causes him nearly to freeze to death. Suddenly Kate's figure appears in the window. She is naked, and as he watches, she throws herself down and begins to pray. This sight delivers the minister from his sexual desire for her, and in a wild sense of release, he runs outside and dashes about in snowy Winesburg. Finding George Willard in the newspaper office, he seizes the young man and tells him that Kate Swift is an instrument of God, and that upon seeing her, he broke the bell tower window, for "the strength of God was in me."

"The Teacher" follows Kate Swift on the same snowy night. George Willard is lusting after her, while she is wandering the streets of Winesburg. She is generally cold and forbidding, but occasionally a great sense of happiness comes over her, completely transforming her. She is a passionate person, and she is captivated by George Willard, in whom she sees a "spark of genius." They have had a number of long talks, fraught with sexual tension, and on this night she goes to the newspaper office to see him. After an awkward conversation, he starts to embrace her, and she abruptly runs away. A short while later, the Reverend Hartman runs in with his strange declaration about Kate's holiness. Thoroughly confused, George goes home, feeling that Kate Swift remains a mystery to him.

Commentary

"Tandy Hard" is the briefest of the stories in Winesburg, Ohio. Its main character, the little daughter of Winesburg's village atheist, finds meaning for her life without even trying, while her father spends his entire life criticizing the masses for succumbing to religion. "Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy," the drunk stranger instructs her. In a single word, the girl finds self-definition. The seemingly random, decidedly non-Biblical nature of the name Tandy speaks to the fact that what the little girl seeks is nothing more than to be something for someone. Her mother is dead, and her father has never paid her any attention. The opportunity to become "Tandy" is something that her father has been unable to give her--the chance to fulfill a purpose. It is this vision of life, so beautiful to her, that makes her sob.

"The Strength of God" is a simple story of temptation with a powerful twist at the end. The Reverend Curtis Hartman, as Anderson presents him, is a simple, stolid man. He is a successful but hardly inspiring minister without any particularly deep sense of faith. His sudden temptation comes from an unlikely source, since he has never been a lustful man; he is so awkward with women, in fact, that his wife courted him more than he courted her. The incredibly alluring vision of Kate Swift, however, creates an inner turmoil that he has never before experienced. Neither prayer nor his own will can restore him until he reaches the moment of crisis, when he begins to consider giving in to temptation. At that point, God (or Sherwood Anderson) sends him a new vision, in which his temptress prays, naked. Having already been lured by her neck and shoulders, Hartman is suddenly allowed to see her entire nude form. The forced juxtaposition of her physical attractiveness and the purity of her devoutness destroys his temptation utterly, replacing it with the sense that he has received a vision from God. His experience is a reversal of the tragedy of the other religious man in Winesburg, Jesse Bentley. Whereas the pious Jesse goes to great lengths to set up conditions in order to accommodate a transmission of God's communication, Hartman finds a divine message not in the heights of religious fervor, but in the depths of sin and despair.

The transition from "The Strength of God" to "The Teacher" is one of the few instances in Winesburg, Ohio in which two stories overlap one another. The reader experiences the same snowy night in each story, but from a different perspective. "The Teacher" offers greater insight into Kate Swift,who is merely objectified in "The Strength of God." Her cold exterior belies an underlying loneliness and a desire, like all of the women of Winesburg, to be loved. In her case, this desire plays itself out in her relationship with George, who was once her star pupil, and in whom she recognizes the "spark of genius." As a result, her feelings toward him are a combination of wanting to mentor him and wanting to embrace him. George cannot quite understand her conflicting sentiments, and finds her conduct baffling. His sense of confusion, of having not understood "something important" about Kate Swift, contrasts sharply with Reverend Hartman, for whom she is the agent of epiphany, making everything clear to him. Anderson implies, however, that neither man really has an understanding of her; she is too complex to fit a role based solely on how she functions for others.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us