A Man of Ideas by Sherwood Anderson
In A Man of Ideas by Sherwood Anderson we have the theme of helplessness, fear, respect, trust, connection, pride and freedom. Taken from his Winesburg, Ohio collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Anderson may be exploring the theme of helplessness. Joe Welling gets so excited when an idea comes to his mind that he can’t help but tell someone about it. However there lies a problem because Joe without knowing it and from being over excited is in fact instilling fear in people. They are afraid of him. Despite the passing of time people do not get used to Joe’s ways. They remain afraid of him and his ideas throughout the story. That is apart from Sarah. Sarah seems to have a lot of time for Joe and if it wasn’t for her father and brother’s involvement she may still be in a relationship with Joe.
When Joe becomes involved with the baseball club he also earns the respect of those in Winesburg. People are amazed that Joe is winning games and as such are proud of Joe and the baseball team. Even though some critics might suggest that Joe’s mannerisms during games are unconventional. He still nonetheless is successful. So successful in fact that Joe’s antics help him and the team win the game against Medina. Though Joe is happy with Sarah there are many in the town who fear, because of Sarah’s father’s and brother’s behaviour, that all will end badly for Joe and they appear to be right. Joe while in the height of an idea may in fact have overwhelmed Sarah. Leading to the ending of the relationship. Though at the time Joe may not necessarily be aware of how much he has contributed to the end of the relationship. Such is the overwhelming feelings he gets when he has an idea. He may not necessarily be thinking straight.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. Joe is described as being small and non-impressive. Yet he is a man who can think of many things and articulate them to the best of his ability. He may be small in stature but that is all that is small about Joe. It is possible that Anderson by allowing Joe to be so small is in fact being ironic. Big things coming from a little man who shows no fear. It is as though Joe is connected with the world around him and is able to tell others of what he is thinking. Even if the manner he does so may be a little irregular. Joe at the end of the day is harmless to other people. Though people themselves don’t necessarily trust Joe (or his ideas). That is with the exception of Sarah who allows Joe to be himself and to express himself freely. Another interesting thing about Joe’s height is the fact that Anderson could also be suggesting, particularly when you consider how Joe expresses himself, that Joe’s ideas may be a little too much for him.
The end of the story is interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that Edward and Tom King have come to intimidate Joe and to end his relationship with Sarah. Something that Joe himself will not consider in light of the fact that he is emotionally overpowered by his latest idea. An idea that is not that strange should all facts be taken into consideration. Joe is talking about the earth replenishing itself. Something that many people might consider possible should every foodstuff known to man disappear. Unfortunately for Joe he doesn’t realise how real the fence is that is circling the world or at least his world. It is as though Joe has a prophecy that he doesn’t fully understand but never the less comes true with regard to his relationship with Sarah. As mentioned Joe while walking towards Sarah’s home may in fact overpower her with his latest ideas. The reader is near certain of this considering Edward and Tom’s opinions on the relationship. They may actually be involved or powerful enough to stop Joe’s courtship with Sarah. Tom in particular is an intimidating man.