THE STRENGTH OF GOD/ Reverend Curtis Hartman

PP. 86: “on the other hand

PP. 87: “On the window, made of little leaded panes, was a design showing the Christ laying his hand upon the head of a child”; “good although somewhat worldly women, had smoked through the pages of a book that had once fallen into his hands“.

PP. 88:”She also had arisen and had gone for a walk and the hand that raised the shade was the hand of Aunt Elizabeth Swift”; “It is only the hand of God, placed beneath my head, that has raised me up.”

Fists: “Lying face downward she wept and beat with her fists upon the pillow” “I am delivered. Have no fear.” He held up a bleeding fist for the young man to see. “I smashed the glass of the window,” he cried. “Now it will have to be wholly replaced. The strength of God was in me and I broke it with my fist” (91-92)

“Windows”… Word occurs 74 times. Strength of God has perhaps the most significant single window, because of its imagery, but throughout Winesburg you have people looking through, or otherwise having to do with, windows significantly. (Seth Richmond, Elizabeth Willard, Dr. Reefy, the old writer of Book of The Grotesque– Dr. Parcival’s eye lid like a window shade rolling up, and so forth)

The image in the window is of Christ touching the head of a child with his hand. When Hartman breaks the window, he nicks off the heel of the adoring boy. When Hartman sees the naked Kate Swift, he believes she resembles the boy in the window. He believes her also to be a manifestation of God. (“Manifestation of God” is also the term used in Tandy.) When he sees her beat the pillow with her fists, he breaks the window with his fists. What does all this add up to?

What’s clear is that the reverend mimics the teacher, has taken his cue from her, and strikes out at the window like she does the pillow. By doing so, he first frees himself from the temptation presented by the broken window (the window will need to be replaced) but also frees him from his former idea of God: Christ with his hand on the adoring child’s head.

(It’s interesting that from the first Swift and Hartman are engaged in parallel activities: both reading.)

Finally, just to say, the term Strength of God is I believe unironically unironically here, but this the Woman-God of the drunkard from Cleveland in Tandy and not the Male-God (that is, the god that requires a son) of Jesse Bentley in Godliness.

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