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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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'GODLINESS-A TALE IN FOUR PARTS' (continued)

PART II - SUMMARY

Instead of getting the son Jesse had prayed for, he is given a daughter he calls Louise, she later on marries John Hardy, a banker. Louise and John have an unhappy marriage, as Louise is a morose, ill-tempered woman, who is a drunk. Though her husband has money and he buys her a beautiful house with servants, Louise is dissatisfied.

Young David Hardy, Louise’s son is brought up in such a house, and so hardly has any joy in his childhood. Due to his disturbed childhood he grows up to be a quiet boy, shut up within himself and only content when he would visit the Bentley farmhouse.

Once, on an impulse, he runs away from his house and roams around the streets. But the darkness frightens him. Finally he is rescued and brought back home. His mother shower’s him with attention and love which is a pleasant surprise for the unloved boy. But when the search party sent by his father comes back home without the boy, the mother hides him and acts as if the boy had not yet returned.

When he is twelve years old, Old Jesse insists on taking him to his farmhouse to live with him. David is happy to be living there and so are the other members. For Jesse, his dream of having a son in the house has now come true.


On the other hand Jesse is influenced by two thoughts. One is the notion that he should be a man of god and a leader among men of gods. He wishes to utilize his restless energy in building temples, slaying the unbelievers and in glorifying God's name. Secondly he works on the modernization of his land. He brings in new machinery, which can do the work of a hundred men and he continually reads magazines on the subject. His vision is to make fast money, with the help of modern equipment.

As for David, he begins to revel in the new surroundings, and loses his earlier taciturnity and timidity. He loves the house and the people in the house all love him back. Grandfather and Grandson spend a lot of time together, talking and riding together.

On one such day, while riding through a forest, Jesse gets the notion that on this spot, god might provide him with a word or sign. He kneels down on the ground and begins praying aloud. This picture of his grandfather frightens David so much that he runs away into the forest to escape from the monster his grandfather seems to have become. Finally, Jesse carries David home, who is bleeding from a cut, and he wonders silently why god did not approve of him and had sent no sign.

Notes

It looked as if God has not heard Jesse's prayers and had sent him a daughter instead. The reason behind Louise's mean temperament and quarrelsome nature could probably be due to Jesse's obvious resentment of her presence in the household. Louise has been described as a "small woman with sharp gray eyes and black hair". Her marriage to Hardy was not a happy one and this obviously has left its impression on their child's personality.

Young David Hardy thus is seen as something of a "dullard". Being too young to have an opinion of his own he would mostly look at things and people for a long time, without appearing to see what he was looking at. He never gave enough thought to people around him or his surroundings. His only source of happiness and contentment was his grandfather's farmhouse.

The decision of Jesse to take David away to stay with him has its ulterior motive for Jesse too. For him, David is the son he never had through his wife Katherine and for David it is a release from the torment of living in a house devoid of love and affection. The incident when he gets lost and returns home to find an altered mother, full of love and forgiveness is strange. His childlike mind craving for affection, finds it in his mother, and he is heartened. Yet his mother's act of hiding him from the others and not revealing his return to his father, shows a neurotic streak in her, which however is lost on the boy.

David's life at the Bentley farmhouse is full of joy and excitement. All his cravings for love and affection get fulfilled here, and he is finally happy. It even looks as of the harshness of the house brought about by Louise's presence in the house is dispelled by the arrival of the boy.

As for Jesse, his life has become a battleground for the two influences. The author portrays Jesse as fanatic as ever, over his land, but at the same time, his fanaticism has extended towards modernizing his land and thus acquiring vast amounts of money. This, in itself would have been a wonderful thing, as changes should be accepted in the passages of time. But over in this, Jesse is obsessive "This greedy thing in him wanted to make money faster than it could be made by filling the land."

Simultaneously in his mind, is the desire to be an evangelist to convert non-believers and to glorify the name of god. Though his age has softened his egotism. He still believes that God might manifest himself in some form and he prays for it.

These two influences seem contradictory, to be present in one man. The greed of acquiring more and more money is in contradiction with his desire to do good, to make temples and his regret in not having lived a simple and sweet life. It is probably this contradiction due to which Jesse never seems to reach out to God, or make him hear him.

The sight of his grandfather on his trees, praying aloud evokes a strange fear and dread in David's heart. He cannot believe that the man with his harsh voice, shouting at he sky, is his grandfather. Even after his grandfather picks him up and carries him to the buggy, all he can say is "Take me away. There is a terrible man back there in the woods." His love for his grandfather and his fear of what he has seen segregates the identity of his grandfather.

Jesse is more upset that his cry to God is unheard. "What have I done that Thou does not approve of me." Probably he little realizes that his inner contradiction is keeping him away from God.

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