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STORY 7 - 'GODLINESS-A TALE IN FOUR PARTS'
The story is set in Winesburg, Ohio, in the Bentley farmhouse, belonging to Bentley’s. Certain sections of the story have been set in Jesse's Bentley's grandson's house.
Jesse Bentley - The owner of the farm, he is the father of Louise Bentley and grandfather of David Hardy. He is a tyrannical landlord, subject to sudden outbursts of religious fervor. At the same time, he believes in the mechanization of his farm.
Louise Bentley - The unwanted daughter of Jesse who is married to John Hardy, she is a woman filled with bitterness and dreariness.
John Hardy - Louise's husband who is rich though he is unable to satisfy or please his irate wife.
David Hardy - Louise's only son and Jesse’s grandson, heir to Jesse's property. David is the long-awaited son for Jesse.
Protagonist - Jesse Bentley is the principal character in the story. As the owner of the farmhouse, he plays a tyrannical rule.
Antagonist - There is no single antagonist in the story. Events and circumstances sometimes seem to pile up, bringing about doom into certain lives. Jesse's unhappiness in not having a son (a heir) makes him behave ill. In turn Louise, Jesse’s daughter, wrecks her marriage in her bitterness.
Climax - The birth of Jesse's grandson, David Hardy is a climatic moment for Jesse. Jesse devotes his life to David, wishing him to learn and imbibe all his experiences. At the same time, his obsession with God drives him towards frenzy.
Outcome - The outcome of Jesse’s frenzy is that he imagines he has got his message from the lord, which has resulted in the disappearance of his grandson from his life.
The predominant theme in all the four sections is Jesse's obsession with religion, and his drive to modernize his farm. He is able to modernize his farm, but his yearning for a message from god remains unfulfilled. Jesse considers his grandson to be the instrument through which he would be able to receive god's message.
The mood in the four sections is serious and somber. There is not much of action, which is why the mood remains even and predictable. At the end, there is a frenzied action, with Jesse awaiting the message from the lord.
PART I - SUMMARY
The occupants of the Bentley house were some old folks, some hired men, a woman named Aunt Callie Beebe who was the housekeeper, Eliza Stoughton the helper, and Jesse Bentley himself, the owner of the house.
Before the American Civil War life had been hard for the Bentleys, they had to work hard, and put in grueling hours at the farm to get any dividend out of it. But after the Civil war, the fortunes turned. All the brothers had enlisted for the war, and were killed. Only Jesse remained and at the age of twenty-two, returned to look after the house. He had left the house when he was eighteen to become a scholar.
Jesse, though small and delicate looking, managed the farmhouse sturdily, his wife however died soon after childbirth. Jesse was a fanatic in his work and made others work hard too.
As he sits in his room by the window, he thinks of his own affairs and prays to God to give him the strength to rule his land.
Jesse believes a lot in the hand of God, and believes every incident to be an act of God. One day, while walking down his fields, he remembers his father's tale of how the lord had appeared to him and told him to send his son David to fight against the Philistines. He now is filled with sudden dread that his land might be taken away from him by some Philistine Goliath. And in a frenzy, implores god to send him a son too who like David, would vanquish the Philistines and help him to take away all their land and make them his own.
'Godliness' is divided into four parts. In parts one, a general description of the farmhouse and its inhabitants is given. The old folks as well as the hired men live in the farmhouse, with Jesse Bentley as their head and master. Jesse's family had worked hard on their land to attain the present state of prosperity. Their lives had been coarse and brutal. After the civil war, when all the sons were killed it was Jesse who had been called back. Therefore, for him, the land was a true blessing.
Jesse's outward appearance belied his inner strength, and this is seen in his fanatic outlook towards his farm "He was a man born out of his time and place and for this he suffered and made others suffer." All are afraid of him and are subdued in front of him.
Jesse's belief in God makes him fear the loss of his land. The dream, which his father had related to him, fills him with the dread that he too might lose his land in the hands of some foe. It is this consuming fear which impels him to pray for a son who would continue his work on the land and drive away all those who would try to take away their land.