Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Anderson, Sherwood (1876–1941)
Author:
Bidney, Martin
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Of Sherwood Anderson's twenty-three books the finest contain his shorter works of fiction: Winesburg, Ohio (1919), The Triumph of the Egg (1921), Horses and Men (1923), and Death in the Woods (1933). Anderson's style influenced the minimalism of Hemingway, while his psychoanalytical sophistication impressed Faulkner.

A New Testament (1927) shows Anderson trying to imitate Whitman's quasi-scriptural ambitions, his long-lined free verse, and his concept of an androgynous universal "self." But Anderson only succeeds as a Whitmanesque visionary in "Out of Nowhere into Nothing," the longest tale in The Triumph of the Egg. The protagonist Rosalind Wescott is attracted equally to contrasting older men: Walter Sayers and Melville Stoner. Eventually Rosalind transcends both of her male friends, but she learns the most from Walt(er). Her dung-beetle reverie recalls section 24 of "Song of Myself"; Walter's advice to give herself to the night, his praise of Native Americans, and his love of humble weeds and grasses recall sections 21, 39, and 5. Walter teaches Rosalind to be a seer of grasses, and she in effect rewrites "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in her epiphany of seagulls. But finally she leaves Walter and Melville both, afoot with her own vision like Whitman in section 33 of "Song of Myself."

In Tar (1926) Anderson notes that Dr. Reefy, "[l]ike Walt Whitman," was a nurse in the Civil War (330). Anderson was akin to Hamlin Garland in that both of these regional writers found in Whitman a sense of the depth of ordinary people.

Bibliography

Anderson, Sherwood. A New Testament. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1927.

———. Tar: A Midwest Childhood. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1926.

———. The Triumph of the Egg. New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1921.

Bidney, Martin. "Thinking about Walt and Melville in a Sherwood Anderson Tale: An Independent Woman's Transcendental Quest." Studies in Short Fiction 29 (1992): 517–530.

Bunge, Nancy L. "The Midwestern Novel: Walt Whitman Transplanted." The Old Northwest 3 (1977): 275–287.


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