Updating Sherwood Anderson’s “The Egg”

Sherwood Anderson crafted a realistic short story that not only unearths the grotesque in human nature, but demonstrates the value of dropping out and breaking away—by showing us just the opposite. In THE EGG, Anderson describes a contemporary (modern for the time) farm-hand who has childlike (innocent, imaginative) ideas, but is pushed to “do better” in life. This portrays more than just anti-success, but anti-success due to “getting ahead” because society pushes you to do so. Anderson is obsessed with self-discovery, even if the ending isn’t a happy one.

In my rewrite, focusing on this aspect, I use the “I,” Mother, and Father. Father has a childhood dream (the egg of promise) to own and operate a slaughter house. Father is enamored with the grotesque in nature and is drawn to this career. Before he marries, he lands his first job as a meat packer. He loves it. Once married, his wife encourages him to start a chain of slaughterhouses, telling him that in contemporary America, entrepreneurs are on the rise. She uses his childhood dream in order to get her husband to be successful. Father buys an old factory (moving to Pickleville), but when applying for a loan, he is denied (fails to soften the egg in vinegar to entertain Joe Kane).

The heart of Sherwood Anderson’s story is about the egg, not the chicken. The egg (childhood dream) holds so much promise, but the reality of the world (the life of a chicken) is full of hardship and disappointment. Sherwood Anderson, himself, experienced a “moment of being” when he walked away from his American dream. I believe THE EGG demonstrates what the anti-success Anderson would’ve gained from chasing the American dream, just as the father did in his story.

My Updated Scene:

A child’s dream is both real and incredible. Ideas are boundless, and reality has no chance at hindering the possibilities of the success of these ideas. This particular childhood dream opened my father’s eyes to reality. The truth of the world destroyed this idea of promise. During the night, I remember waking once to the barely audible grunting from my father downstairs. In time, mom and I sat up in bed, wide-eyed and panting. We’d both heard a thunderous shriek from downstairs that followed with cursing and pounding. When we heard father’s footsteps on the stairway up to our bedroom, Mother got out of bed to flip on the light switch. The room flooded with light right as my father threw open the door. He stood in the doorway with a packet of papers in his hand, and pen and marker ink all over his suit. Mother and I felt his anger from our beds, not sure what to expect from his temper. He mumbled something about dreams being the seed of disappointment, and allowed the packet to fall from his hand. Creasing pages every which-way, it lay upon the floor at his feet. My mother, standing next to her bed, approached my father. She took the packet off the floor and put it back into his hands. This was almost a sign of hope. Almost. But instead of encouraging my father to try again, she instead told him to burn it. My father’s hard work, his dream, was no more than nonsense in the professional business world. It meant nothing outside of his heart.

Student essays are stored at each department or sometimes departmental library of the University in which it was submitted. No part of this text may be reproduced in any form without written permission from Jennifer M. Hartsock. Every effort has been made to ensure that credits accurately comply with information supplied.

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