Adventure by Sherwood Anderson
In Adventure by Sherwood Anderson we have the theme of aspirations, innocence, loneliness, isolation, letting go, paralysis and connection. Taken from his Winesburg, Ohio collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises how symbolically important Anderson’s physical description of Alice is. By describing Alice’s head as being large and overshadowing her body Anderson may be suggesting that Alice rather than living life, lives her life in her head. In essence thinking about life (and Ned) rather than actually going out and living her life (with another man). The fact that Alice’s shoulders are ‘stooped’ may also be important as it suggests that Alice might be carrying a weight (the past). Anderson also appears to be exploring the theme of aspirations. It is clear to the reader that when Alice was sixteen she had fallen in love with Ned and just as Ned wanted to progress in the world and move to Cleveland, Alice wanted to follow him. With the intention of first living with Ned and then when she was older marrying him. At no stage in the story does Alice let go of Ned or her aspirations to marry him despite the passing of time.
There is also a sense of innocence in the story. Something that is noticeable after Alice and Ned have made love. Ned tells Alice ‘now we will have to stick to each other, whatever happens we will have to do that.’ Though it is clear to the reader that after Ned leaves Winesburg he eventually forgets about Alice, she on the other hand remains true to Ned’s statement. Which again would highlight Alice’s inability to let go of either Ned or the past. It is also noticeable that ‘for a number of years nothing could have induced her (Alice) to believe that Ned Currie would not in the end return to her.’ This line may be important as it further highlights Alice’s inability to let go of Ned (and the past). Anderson may also be placing a spotlight on the tradition that existed at the time the story was written with it being believed that a single woman should remain faithful to her first love and not explore any type of relationship with another man. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when Alice whispers ‘I am his wife and shall remain his wife whether he comes back or not.’ Also Alice isolates herself from other suitors believing it to be ‘monstrous’ to give herself to another man. Which would further suggest that Alice adheres to the traditional beliefs that existed at the time when it came to a man and a woman having a relationship.
The theme of loneliness and isolation is self-evident in the story. Rather than attempting to engage with other people Alice begins to get attached to inanimate objects in her room. Also when praying she whispered ‘things she wanted to say to her lover.’ If anything rather than living her life, Alice is living in her head. Isolated from others. Something that is noticeable when she takes out her bank book and stares at it. Imagining ‘that the interest would support both herself and her future husband.’ It is also interesting that Alice has very little conversation with her employer and at times the store can be empty for hours. This is important as it suggests that not only is Alice lonely in work but she is further isolated from others for most of the day while she is working. Both Alice’s loneliness and isolation contribute to her feeling desperate. Something that the reader becomes aware of when we discover that on occasions Alice would put her head on the store counter and cry. Repeating the words ‘Oh, Ned, I am waiting.’ If anything there is a complete paralysis in Alice’s life. Unlike Ned who has left and moved to Chicago. Alice is going nowhere and remains rooted to the past. Again unable to let go.
The ending of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader just how desperate Alice has become. She places a blanket between the sheets of her bed and caresses it. What is significant about Alice’s action is the fact that the blanket does not necessarily represent Ned or any other man. But instead it serves to highlight how lonely Alice really is. She wants to be loved by someone. How deeply affected by her loneliness Alice actually is, is also noticeable by the actions she takes in order to try and connect with another person. She runs out onto the street naked. The fact that the old man is ‘somewhat deaf’ may also be important as it suggests that Alice has not been heard, literally and symbolically. It is also interesting that when Alice returns to her room she pulls the dressing table across the doorway. Symbolically Anderson could be suggesting not only is Alice blocking out the world around her but she may also be trapping herself again. Having already spent the last eleven years of her life waiting for Ned and then for somebody to love her. If anything Alice is to remain alone or paralyzed and stuck in Winesburg.