Brothers by Sherwood Anderson
In Brothers by Sherwood Anderson we have the theme of connection, loneliness, escape, paralysis and change. Taken from his The Triumph of the Egg and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Anderson may be exploring the theme of connection. Out of all the characters mentioned by Anderson four of them appear to be trying to make a connection with the world. Firstly the old man though it is clear at the end of the story that he is lying about his relationship with others he still nonetheless appears to want to be able to connect with somebody. If anything he may wish for his life to have some meaning. The man in the factory also longs to make a connection with the young girl who works in the office of the factory. What is driving him to want to make this connection is difficult to say but it may be a case that he is unhappy with his life (with his wife and children). Likewise the girl in the office also seems to want to make a connection with somebody and by imagining the man in the factory to be something he is not Anderson manages to place an emphasis on the girls desire to connect with somebody (or anybody). Finally the narrator also appears to want to make a connection. Something that is noticeable by his decisions to go walking. There is a sense that he feels incomplete in his life. Also the fact that the narrator is telling the reader the story suggests that he wishes to make a connection with somebody.
What may be driving each character towards wanting to connect with somebody else is the sense of loneliness that each character may feel. Both the narrator and the old man, due to their physical location, are isolated from the world. Anderson using the setting of the story, the forest and the open plains to suggest possibly that there is a void in both men’s lives. A hollowness that many might feel from living so isolated from others. It is also interesting that Anderson manages to mirror the loneliness of both men in the country to how the man in the factory may feel. Despite living in the city he still may feel lonely and as such longs to make a connection with the girl in the office (who may also be lonely). Though Anderson doesn’t fully go into the man in the factory’s life at no stage is there a sense that he is happy rather if anything he lives a muted life despite being married and having children.
His life is one of repetition in whereby he does the same things with no change. In many ways he may be paralysed as too are some of the other characters in the story. The girl in the office, just like the man in the factory, lives her life doing the same things. Anderson never giving her any type of existence outside of her work life. The reader never learns anything about the girl apart from her desire to connect with somebody even if the connection she wants to make is not based on reality. Her perception of the man in the factory is not who he is. Likewise both the old man and the narrator also appear to be paralysed with both doing the same things throughout the story. The old man creates a fantasy world for himself while the narrator appears to be rooted in the town with no avenue of escape. Each character’s desire to make a connection with somebody appears to be driven not only by loneliness but by their desire to escape from their circumstances. All are acutely unhappy or seem to be unhappy in their lives. However all remain paralysed and in essence are going nowhere.
The end of the story is also interesting particularly the narrator’s opinion with regard to the leaves falling. On three separate occasions in the story the narrator mentions the ‘yellow, red and golden leaves’ and how they should go ‘dancing away’ with the wind rather than falling to the ground. In many ways the leaves mirror the four characters mentioned. Their lives too are lifeless without any momentum or wind to help them. The reality being that none of the characters will see a positive change in their lives. The girl in the office and the old man will continue to imagine their lives being something else but there will be no change for them. Having killed his wife the man from the factory will not find the happiness he seeks. Likewise the narrator is to live his life without any change. He will remain living where he is and reading stories from the newspaper about other people’s lives while his own life remains static. By the end of the story Anderson manages to highlight to the reader that regardless of an individual’s physical location (country or city) they can still feel alone, unhappy and still want to escape from the circumstances they find themselves in. Anderson also manages to highlight how far an individual will go in the pursuit of happiness. With the man from the factory killing his wife and the old man and girl from the office creating alternative worlds around themselves.