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‘The Strength of God’ by Sherwood Anderson

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Curtis Hartman, a reverend at the Presbyterian Church in the town of Winesburg, is a deeply religious man, whom acquaintances have a lot of respect for. Though an experienced minister of ten years, Hartman still finds himself nervous and uncomfortable in front of his congregation. However, the reverend has the conviction that through intense spiritual and dutiful ways, he will become both a better messenger of God and a happier individual. While preparing a sermon – in the bell tower of the church -for Sunday morning, Curtis Hartman feels a strange and foreign desire to “peep” and spy upon the half-dressed body of neighbor Kate Swift. The young woman is a smoker, which bothers the reverend, who sets out to “carry a message to her soul” through his sermons, in hopes that through spiritual engagement, she will lose this nasty habit. Hartman is greatly troubled and confounded as to why he continues to have this obsession with this woman, and not with his own wife and the word of God.

In a drastic effort to “grope [his] way out of the darkness into the light of righteousness,” the main character sits in the bell tower during a snowstorm, and openly defies the distraction the Ms. Swift presents, exclaiming that he will not look at her through the open window right beside him. The woman, to Curtis’s pleasure, now begins to end each evening with a prayer; and consequently, having seen the success of his sermons, puts the reverend at ease. However, more importantly, the reverend finds that his specific experience parallels the same “temptations that assail” the general congregation and that having these commonplace feelings are what truly liberated his sole, not a steadfast connection with God. Hartman is now a happier person, because of a stronger relationship with his wife and a strengthened connection with God. The reverend sees that while following the holy word is important, it is also equally important for him not to be crushed by “the strength of God.”

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