The Strength of God by Sherwood Anderson
In The Strength of God by Sherwood Anderson we have the theme of desperation, faith, depression, temptation and struggle. 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 that Anderson may be exploring the theme of desperation. Curtis finds it difficult to write his sermons. It is as though he lacks inspiration and cannot write the sermons. So desperate is Curtis that he soon becomes depressed. This may be significant as it is through depression that Curtis sees a light of sorts. He sees, through the stained glass window in the bell tower, Kate Swift lying on her bed smoking a cigarette. This arouses Curtis and he punishes himself for being tempted by Kate. Though in reality very little has actually happened. However so strong are Curtis’ feelings for Kate that he tries to place his affections on his wife instead. Being more affectionate to her than he has normally been.
This unfortunately does not remove Kate from Curtis’ mind and he becomes more obsessed with seeing her lying on her bed. So obsessed in fact that he tells his congregation that even a Reverend can be tempted and tested by God. Things get so bad for Curtis that he begins to walk the streets of Winesburg praying. At first he fights the feelings he feels for Kate but then he wishes for God to allow him to be tempted. This too is important as Curtis is prepared to forgo his role as a pastor in order to begin a relationship with a woman who is not his wife. Some readers may also consider Curtis’ actions to be admirable as he does not wish to be a hypocrite and remain a Reverend.
There may also be some symbolism in the story that might be important. The tree which Curtis rests by when tempted by Kate may be representative of phallic symbolism. The tree is erect and pointing upwards. Perhaps mirroring how Curtis is feeling at the time. The hole in the stain glass is also important as it highlights Jesus touching a child’s head. There lies the problem for Curtis. He is obsessed with Kate. The buggy in which Curtis travels around town with his wife could highlight how Curtis may have been going around in circles. Repeating the same actions again and again. This is noticeable if you consider the amount of time that Curtis spends looking through the window.
The end of the story is interesting as Curtis appears to have an awakening, He sees Kate praying and believes that God is working through her and that everything will be okay. The fact that Curtis breaks the window may also be important as it suggests that Curtis has defeated his demons. That he is able to live his life without the fear of temptation. In fact so excited is Curtis to have been released by God he runs into town and speaks to George Willard. Who is going through his own struggles and must be confused by what Curtis is saying. However this doesn’t stop Curtis from telling George that God has visited him through Kate’s body. Which makes perfect sense to Curtis but of course means nothing to George. Who is left to struggle as Curtis runs out onto the street. What had been an unbearable cross for Curtis has been removed and Curtis can see clearly after months of confusion. His faith in God is restored and he is happy to preach God’s word without the thorn of temptation hanging over him.