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Adventure

In the story "Adventure," from Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (1919), the lonely spinster Alice Hindman waits
delusionally for a lover who will never return. Although "giving to another what she still felt could belong only to Ned seemed
monstrous," she does walk out with Will Hurley "to avoid being so much alone." In her "passionate restlessness," one
evening she undresses and runs naked out of the house into the rain. "Not for years had she felt so full of youth and
courage." She is possessed by a "wild, desperate mood" and a "mad desire to run"; "She wanted to leap and run, to cry
out." But, hearing a voice, "Alice dropped to the ground and lay trembling"; she returns to her room to weep
"brokenheartedly" and tries to force herself "to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in
Winesburg" (112-20).
All the details from "Adventure" cited above show close resemblances to passages from a book of Russian short stories,
Feodor Sologub's The Old House and Other Tales, published in English translation by John Cournos in 1915.1 The closest
parallels are to a Sologub story called "The White Dog," in which the main character Alexandra, her heart "restless with a
dark longing," compulsively undresses and runs naked into the yard at night. She "seemed once more merry and lighthearted, just as she was ten years ago." She experiences desire "to howl like a wild thing" and lies down in the grass on her
stomach. At the end of the story, she is "groaning, weeping and raising cries of distress" (141-52).
At least two others of the Sologub stories, furthermore, show parallels in situation and/or phrasing to "Adventure." For
example, Saksaoolov, in "The White Mother," "persuaded himself that he ought to remain single out of memory to his first
love" (278); but, beset by "fear and loneliness," he does consider whether it "would be well to marry so as not to be alone"
(282). In a third Sologub story, "The Old House," the characters are preoccupied with their delusions of the return of a lost
loved one; and one of the characters has a "mad desire to run...to moan and to wail, and to flee" (102). The character Sofia
Alexandrovna despairingly concludes, "It is my fate to die alone" (99).
Despite the notoriously uncertain nature of most such "internal evidence," these close patterns of similarity would seem to
invite, at the least, a closer look at Sologub's work as one of the possibly significant influences on Anderson's Winesburg,
Ohio, in part because critics have been especially interested to identify factors that can account for what Irving Howe many
years ago referred to as Anderson's "abrupt...creative ascent" (91) and John W. Crowley more recently has called the
"artistic quantum leap" (8) from Anderson's earlier published work to the Winesburg tales.(2)
Close examination does reveal, I believe, many parallels, including the striking similarities of "Adventure" and "The White
Dog" already mentioned, between several of the Winesburg, Ohio tales and at least three or four of the stories in Sologub's
The Old House and Other Tales, as translated by John Cournos and published in 1915. The number and nature of these
parallels provide at least a strong likelihood that Sologub's stories provided some of the stimulus for Anderson's imagination
in writing Winesburg, Ohio.(3) Although I believe that as many as 12 of the Winesburg, Ohio stories were perhaps thus
affected, I will limit myself here to indicating only some of the additional evidence for the influence of Sologub's "The White
Mother" on Anderson's "Tandy" and of Sologub's "Light and Shadows" on Anderson's "Loneliness," "Mother," and "The Book
of the Grotesque."
It is possible that Anderson found his inspiration to write the strangest story in Winesburg, Ohio, "Tandy," in an equally
strange Sologub story called "The White Mother." Both stories deal with a disillusioned young man gripped by a vision of the
perfect woman, called by one "Tamar" and the other "Tandy." Each encounters and is fascinated by a young unwanted child
(in Sologub a boy, in Anderson a girl) who reminds him strongly of Tamar or Tandy. In the climactic scene of both stories, the
man kisses the child, Sologub's character with "unspeakable happiness" (294) and Anderson's "ecstatically" (145).
Saksaoolov, the 37-year-old main character in "The White Mother," lives with the "pure, radiant fancy" of his "first and only
love," Tamar, who had died soon after he saw and fell in love with her. He encounters Lesha, a small boy who "stirred his
memory with joy" because of the boy's "unusual likeness to Tamar." Lesha's parents are dead, and he is unwanted by his
stepmother. Saksaoolov takes the boy home with him. He dreams of Tamar coming to give him the kiss of Easter: "At last
she came, all in white, joyous, bringing with her glad tidings from afar" and kisses him. A sweet voice speaks to him, "Christ
has risen." But when Saksaoolov opens his eyes and reaches out to embrace the "slender, gentle body," "It was Lesha who
climbed on his knees and gave him the kiss of Easter" (278-94). The story has resounding religious overtones: of the
resurrection, of spiritual incarnation, of the dream -- or the "word" -- made flesh.