He wrote many short stories and novels and was best known for his classic collection of tales “Winnowers Ohio” which was published in 1919. One of his short stories is titled “Motherhood”. John Bassett says about this work in his book “Sherwood Anderson: An American Career” that it is a lyrical sketch of a pregnant woman and a young man (66). So it tells a story about a farm girl who gets pregnant by a young farmer boy, maybe in her imagination.
But a deep reading to the story helps understand the term “Lyrical sketch” The story begins with the girl who goes to a place covered with long grass and takes a nap or rests there. At first there was no sound, but then she hears a series of faint sounds. She went beyond the tree to where the grass was long and matted. In the farmhouse a door bangs and in the road before the house a dog barked. For a long time there was no sound. Then a wagon came jolting and bumping over the frozen road.
The little noises ran along the ground to where she was lying on the grass and seemed like fingers playing over her body. A fragrance arose from her. It took a long time for the wagon to pass. Anderson 85) In the first paragraph we have “door bangs” and “dog barked” which give sound to the text. Also in the second paragraph he says “for a long time there was no sound” then in the of the paragraph he says “it took a long time for the wagon to pass”. Here we have the reputation of “a long time” it gives a lyrical effect like a song.
Then a boy comes to the hill and looks at the farm, maybe he wants to see girl but he can’t. The he notices her by her scent. Anderson says that the aroma of her crept into his consciousness (85). Maybe because the boy was unconscious when doing this every time. But her scent makes him aware or conscious of her presence. So there a shift of his identity. Now he approaches her but realizes that she is different from before, so there is also an identity shift. But then he gets mad and commits sexual intercourse, but then it may be an imagination.
He ran to kneel beside her silent figure. Everything was different than it had been when they crept to the hill on the other evenings. The time of talking and waiting was over. She was different. He grew bold and put his hands on her face, her neck, her breasts, her hips. There was a strange new firmness and hardness to her body. When he kissed her lips she did not move and for a moment he was afraid. Then courage came and he went down to lie with her. He had been a farm boy all his life and had plowed many acres of rich black land.
He became sure of himself. He plowed her deeply. He planted the seeds of a son in the warm rich quivering soil (85) So the term “lyrical sketch” means that it is not real but somehow seemed real or we can say imagination. The repetition of “he” makes it lyrical as a song. In the next part, she is pregnant, or thinks she is pregnant. She carried the seeds of a son within herself. On winter evenings she went along a path at the tot of a small hill and turned up the hill to a barn where she milked cows. She was large and strong. Her legs went swinging along.
The son within her went swinging along. He learned the rhythm of little hills. He learned the rhythm of flat places. He learned the rhythm of legs walking. He learned the rhythm of firm strong hands pulling at the teats of cows (86) We have the repetition of “he learned the rhythm” it is like a song . In the last part of the novel we have the word “barren” which can mean that the girl is barren, she can’t have babies. In the end of the story she only hears one voice which is the sound of her mind. Within herself only the one child struggled.
When she got into bed his heels beat upon the walls of his prison. She lay still and listened. Only one small voice seemed coming to her out of the silence of the night (86). So the story begins with a normal girl going to a hill to rest then a boy comes has sexual intercourse, but it maybe was an imagination. Then she thought she was pregnant. In the end she was hearing voices of her mind which may indicate that she is crazy.