Winesburg, Ohio | Study Guide

Sherwood Anderson

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Winesburg, Ohio | Tandy | Summary



The reader learns Tom Hard, a staunch agnostic, has a young daughter. The child's mother had died, and Tom gives her very little attention. A stranger suddenly appears in Winesburg, "a tall, red-haired young man who was almost always drunk." The stranger had come to Winesburg to cure himself of his drunkenness, but finds being there only made his alcoholism worse. The stranger lodges at the New Willard House, and George is present when Tom and his daughter are visiting. The stranger joins them. Tom himself is described as a man ever-ready to argue his point to anyone, but on this particular evening, it is the stranger who takes over the conversation with the declaration drink isn't the only thing with which he is obsessed. He states, "I am a lover and have not found my thing to love." He goes on to describe an imaginary woman he has faith he will one day find, and whom he has named "Tandy." But the stranger also says he thinks he is too late, and he has missed his time to love and be loved. Apparently ignoring everyone else, he invests Tom Hard's young daughter with the idea she herself might grow up to become such a woman. He tells her, "Dare to be strong and courageous ... Venture anything ... Be Tandy." Profoundly affected by the stranger's words, Tom's daughter rejects her given name, and cries out she wants to be Tandy.


The courageous and bold woman described by the stranger recalls the young woman in the guise of a knight who saves the old writer from becoming grotesque in "The Book of the Grotesque." Tom Hard is himself a kind of "grotesque" of Anderson who, like Tom, claimed to be agnostic, and likely wasn't shy about explaining why to anyone who would listen to him.

The story of "Tandy" is one of several in which the main character imagines him or herself destined for some exceptional purpose in life. George Willard himself pauses to listen for a voice calling to him in "Nobody Knows," and "An Awakening." The calling to exceptional service in a religious capacity is zealously pursued by Jesse Bentley in "Godliness: A Tale in Four Parts," and the Reverend Curtis Hartman in "The Strength of God." This same fervor to become greater than ordinary has consumed the young daughter of an agnostic with a religious determination both Jesse and Curtis would recognize. Anderson creates a bit of mystery in this story because both the little girl and the stranger from whom she has received such an intense sense of meaning in the name "Tandy" are unnamed in a way suggesting a universal, timeless, and spaceless condition that allows the exchange between them to retain a kind of "sacred" continuity. Anderson weaves religious references throughout the stories in Winesburg, Ohio. The pronouncement of the stranger is almost on the order of the pronouncement in the Bible by the Angel of God to the Virgin Mary she is to be Christ's mother. At the end of the story, the little girl cries "as though her young strength were not enough to bear the vision with which the words of the drunkard had brought to her."

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