Farm hand, children’s clutching hands

“The Untold Lie”, pp.126-127 “The beauty of the country about Winesburg was too much for Ray on that fall evening. That is all there was to it. He could not stand it. Of a sudden he forgot all about being a quiet old farm hand and throwing off the torn overcoat began to run across the field. As he ran he shouted a protest against his life, against all life, against everything that makes life ugly. ‘There was no promise made,’ he cried into the empty spaces that lay about him. ‘I didn’t promise my Minnie anything and Hal hasn’t made any promise to Nell. I know he hasn’t. She went into the woods with him because she wanted to go. What he wanted she wanted. Why should I pay? Why should Hal pay? Why should anyone pay? I don’t want Hal to become old and worn out. I’ll tell him. I won’t let it go on. I’ll catch Hal before he gets to town and I’ll tell him.’

Ray ran clumsily and once he stumbled and fell down. ‘I must catch Hal and tell him,’ he kept thinking, and although his breath came in gasps he kept running harder and harder. As he ran he thought of things that hadn’t come into his mind for years—how at the time he married he had planned to go west to his uncle in Portland, Oregon—how he hadn’t wanted to be a farm hand, but had thought when he got out West he would go to sea and be a sailor or get a job on a ranch and ride a horse into Western towns, shouting and laughing and waking the people in the houses with his wild cries. Then as he ran he remembered his children and in fancy felt their hands clutching at him. All of his thoughts of himself were involved with the thoughts of Hal and he thought the children were clutching at the younger man also. ‘They are the accidents of life, Hal,’ he cried. ‘They are not mine or yours. I had nothing to do with them.’”

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“They are the accidents of life”… ‘Accident’ occurs six times in Winesburg, most poignantly when Dr. Reefy adjures, echoing this passage, that ‘love is an accident of life’ (137):

The words of her one friend, Doctor Reefy, rang in her ears. “Love is like a wind stirring the grass beneath trees on a black night,” he had said. “You must not try to make love definite. It is the divine accident of life. If you try to be definite and sure about it and to live beneath the trees, where soft night winds blow, the long hot day of disappointment comes swiftly and the gritty dust from passing wagons gathers upon lips inflamed and made tender by kisses.”


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