The Philosopher by Sherwood Anderson, 1919
The magic trick:
Espousing a one-sentence philosophy on the world
The titular philosopher in today’s Winesburg feature is simultaneously one who intrigues and repulses. He’s almost like the devil on George Willard’s shoulder, pushing him toward fear and doubt and pessimism.
But he is a philosopher who has a philosophy. And this is key, because I’m not sure that’s always the case. In fact, he distills it down to one sentence, delivered in the story’s final paragraph. I won’t spoil it here, but let’s just say it’s pretty good. It’s one to puzzle over for a good while.
And that’s quite a trick on Anderson’s part.
Doctor Parcival shook with fright. “I have a presentiment,” he declared emphatically. “It may be that what I am talking about will not occur this morning. It may be put off until to-night but I will be hanged. Everyone will get excited. I will be hanged to a lamp-post on Main Street.”
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