Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

by

Sherwood Anderson

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Jesse Bentley Character Analysis

The owner of a prosperous farm outside of Winesburg several generations before the novel’s contemporary stories take place. Jesse takes over the Bentley family farm after his brothers are killed in the Civil War and is quickly swept up in a prophetic vision of himself as an Old Testament figure and a servant of God. He becomes obsessed with the farm’s prosperity at all costs, encouraging his wife to work so hard that she dies during the birth of their daughter Louise Bentley. Jesse has a strained relationship with Louise, forever resenting the fact that he was not blessed with a son to help fulfill his divinely ordained destiny. When Jesse is an old man, his grandson David Hardy comes to live with him on the family farm in hopes of escaping his troubled home life. Jesse views David’s presence as God blessing him with the son he always wanted, but David is terrified by Jesse’s fervent religious outbursts. Jesse is concerned about forging a proper life path for David and believes he must present God with a sacrifice in order to receive an answer about David’s destiny. When he tries to sacrifice a lamb in David’s presence, his grandson flees the Bentley farm and is never seen by his family again. Jesse views this loss as a punishment for the greed he has exhibited over the years.

Jesse Bentley Quotes in Winesburg, Ohio

The Winesburg, Ohio quotes below are all either spoken by Jesse Bentley or refer to Jesse Bentley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Winesburg, Ohio published in 1993.
1. The Book of the Grotesque Quotes

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
7. Godliness, Part I Quotes

As time passed and he grew to know people better, he began to think of himself as an extraordinary man, one set apart from his fellows. He wanted terribly to make his life a thing of great importance, and as he looked about at his fellow men and saw how like clod they lived it seemed to him that he could not bear to become also such a clod.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Jesse Bentley
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

In our day a farmer standing by the stove in the store in his village has his mind filled to overflowing with the words of other men. The newspapers and the magazines have pumped him full. Much of the old brutal ignorance that had in it also a kind of beautiful childlike ignorance is gone forever. The farmer by the stove is brother to the men of the cities, and if you listen you will find him talking as glibly and as senselessly as the best city man of us all.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Jesse Bentley
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
8. Godliness, Part II Quotes

The beginning of the most materialistic age in the history of the world…when men would forget God and only pay attention to moral standards, when the will to power would replace the will to serve and beauty would well-nigh forgotten in the terrible headlong rush of mankind toward the acquiring of possessions, was telling its story to Jesse the man of God as it was to the men about him.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Jesse Bentley
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
9. Godliness, Part III: Surrender Quotes

It seemed to her that between herself and all the other people in the world, a wall had been built up and that she was living just on the edge of some warm inner circle of life that must be quite open and understandable to others. She became obsessed with the thought that it wanted but a courageous act on her part to make all of her association with people something quite different, and that it was possible by such an act to pass into a new life as one opens a door and goes into a room.

Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jesse Bentley Character Timeline in Winesburg, Ohio

The timeline below shows where the character Jesse Bentley appears in Winesburg, Ohio. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
7. Godliness, Part I
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
...Ohio shifts back in time to the late nineteenth century to tell the story of Jesse Bentley, who owns a prosperous farm outside of Winesburg. Jesse and his four older brothers... (full context)
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
Jesse takes over the family farm and runs it with uncompromising authority, instilling fear in his... (full context)
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
The narrator comments that modern men and women may find it hard to understand Jesse Bentley. Whereas men in Jesse’s era lived simple, pastoral lives centered around religion, those in... (full context)
8. Godliness, Part II
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
The story shifts two generations into the future to tell the story of Jesse’s daughter Louise Bentley, her husband John Hardy, and their son (Jesse’s grandson) David Hardy. David’s... (full context)
Grief Theme Icon
When David is twelve years old, Jesse demands that his grandson come live with him on the Bentley farm. Louise surprisingly allows... (full context)
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
At fifty-five, Jesse has been an extremely successful farmer and has acquired most of the land in the... (full context)
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
Jesse soon becomes fixated on his old vision of serving God. One day, he brings David... (full context)
9. Godliness, Part III: Surrender
Alienation Theme Icon
...period between the events of “Godliness, Part I” and “Godliness, Part II” to focus on Jesse Bentley’s daughter Louise. Her father’s strict demeanor and resentment of her for being female causes... (full context)
10. Godliness, Part IV: Terror
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...II” left off, David Hardy is fifteen years old and still living with his grandfather Jesse Bentley on the family farm. Jesse is mocked by neighboring farmers for purchasing a stretch... (full context)
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
After the satisfaction of a successful growing season wears off, Jesse returns to thinking of biblical “old days” and decides that he must perform a sacrifice... (full context)
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...himself. After this “adventure,” he flees Winesburg and is never seen by his family again. Jesse is not surprised by David’s disappearance, believing that God has taken him away as a... (full context)