Balditsyn P.V. Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods” (1926): Personal Experience in the Making of Myth
Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods” exemplifies the new strategy in the American fiction of the 1920’s, a combination of realism, naturalism (e.g., truthful details of a specific historical moment and psychological motives) and modernism (subjective worldview, deductions and philosophizing, and a complex inverse composition).
There are two main characters in “Death in the Woods”: an old woman “destined to feed” men and animals, and a nameless narrator composing a story through a complex interaction of his memories, personal experiences, and a strong desire to understand life by mythological thinking. The characters are opposing entities: male and female, youth and old age, freedom and submission, word and silence, object and narration.
Sherwood Anderson did not use traditional myths in his short story, he created his own myth-making symbols out of simple things and occurrences like gender, age, a feeding process, a house in the forest, a bag with meat, dogs running in circles, a dependent life, or casual death of a woman.
The narrator calls his story “simple” but its simplicity is deceptive. There is a new complexity and depth in it. This strategy of complex simplicity and making personal myths were characteristic features of the modern American short story of the first half of the 20-th century.
Sherwood Anderson, “Death in the Woods”, simplification strategy, symbolism, myth of personal experience