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Short Story Group Reads > Sherwood Anderson's The Egg

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message 1: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod

I know, I'm starting early.

message 2: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (last edited May 28, 2009 09:41AM) (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I want first to say that I love Sherwood Anderson. Love, love, love him, can't say enough, total literary crush.

So how did this imaginary love affair begin? Well first, with Winesburg, Ohio. I loved the characters, I loved their... off-kilteredness. I loved the way he built them. Loathed the society that judged them. That book spoke to me probably more than The Stranger did, the first time I read it in the same school year. His characters lived and breathed for me in ways that even Mark Twain's didn't.

Then I bought a short story collection of his called Certain Things Last The Selected Short Stories of Sherwood Anderson a few years ago.

Inside that collection is this story with characters in it from Southern Illinois, which is where my family is from. He captured the dialogue and body language so precisely that I thought, holy SHIT. This guy is a total master. This is exactly how they walk, talk and think. I haven't read anything before or since that so accurately captured the picture of the people I (sporadically) grew up around.

The Egg is a great little story - about ambition, failure, the cycle of life and death... can't wait to discuss it.

message 3: by Brian, just a child's imagination (new)

Brian (banoo) | 346 comments Mod
the egg is what started me on sherwood anderson. so i guess you could say the egg came first... i may have to reread it now.

message 4: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
OK, everyone, bumping this thread...

I LOVE SHERWOOD. I should have named my son Sherwood.

message 5: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
Then we can expect you to join us, of course. :)

message 6: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
So, the very first thing I thought about was this: is naked, undirected ambition as American as... hospitality is Irish?

And, the essential question of the story- which comes first, chicken or egg? Given all of the accidents that can befall a chicken, as we are told, it's amazing that a chicken grows to be a hen capable of producing a fertilized egg with a surviving rooster. Is this also what success is? An accident, made out of grotesque genetic ambition accidents? Is the narrator's family a casualty of this?

(But then I thought, I need to come up with a coherent set of thoughts on this story. (I am not a very good discussion leader, I know I need to work on it.))

"It was not written for you." is repeated twice in the same paragraph about "literature" around having a profitable chicken farm.

It seems to me that the entire first half of the story is really about natural selection - social darwinism as it relates to the disastrous effect of misplaced ambition in "country folk" who should simply be happy with their place in life, and natural selection of the chickens and grotesques kept by the father. Did anyone else see this?

Also, the eggs seem to represent the hatching of hare-brained schemes, like the one to make the restaurant a place of entertainment: "There was something pre-natal about the way eggs kept themselves connected with the development of his idea. At any rate an egg ruined his new impulse in life."

I found the father so pitiable and sad in that scene with Joe Kane - he may have had a bit of the showman, but not enough, certainly.

These are opening thoughts I had. Social Darwinism. Natural selection. Misplaced ambition.

message 7: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
So am I like a conversation killer or something?

Too much in one post?

Or do you all not share my enthusiasm for Mr. Anderson?

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Sorry Shel. Is it Sad? I'm trying to avoid sad.

message 9: by Sanmac (new)

Sanmac | 1 comments Greetings! After just having read Anderson’s The Egg, I searched the site and found this discussion. I’m a newbie so please advise if I break any rules.
Here in the Antipodes we are not exposed to much American Literature and I had only vaguely heard of Sherwood Anderson.

I agree with you, Shel, He is a brilliant writer.

To me the egg represents the ‘dreadful cycle’ of life - stripped to its barest. Anderson has a fatalistic approach. The old question, “Is this all there is?” is answered with a resounding, “Yes”! He shows the results of attempts to outwit fate – by nature, resulting in the ‘grotesques’ and by man, which, in the story, results in frustration and despair. The tricks with the egg are analogous to trying to change life. Thus, ambition is futile and happiness lies with being content with one’s lot as the father, prior to ambition, was ‘quite happy with his position in life’.

Interestingly, the father’s ‘undoing’ was thinking and then deciding to adopt a ‘cheerful outlook on life’. One in the eye for the proponents of P.M.A, eh?

message 10: by Brian, just a child's imagination (new)

Brian (banoo) | 346 comments Mod
welcome sandra... don't worry about breaking rules, i don't think we have any.

excellent take on the egg. hope to see more of your thoughts here, well, not just here but in the other threads too.

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