What was Sherwood Anderson's purpose for writing "Death In The Woods"?

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"Death in the Woods" is a story for which Sherwood Anderson had a particular fondness as he reworked this story by rewriting and revising it several times.  Perhaps the subject matter of this story afforded him such opportunities for reworking since the theme revolves around humans' differing perceptions and witnessings.

In his story, Anderson calls into question these very human acts of interpreting reality.  As a boy, the narrator was a boy when he became a partial witness to the death of an old farm woman named Ma Grimes.  But, even though the boy witnessed the body of one ravaged by dogs, he envisions amid the background of snow a frozen beauty.  Later, as an adult, the narrator undergoes an epiphany and realizes that his sight was influenced by interpretations of other things around him.

This ephiphany of the narrator raises metaphysical questions.  Does the mind rearrange the illusionary with the actual to make for truth, or what humans call real?  One critic, John Kerr, states that "Death in the Woods" addresses the question of what it really means to see. Kerr writes,

the act of witnessing is challenged in the story, and Anderson probes the asperity of locating the authentic truth in memorable events.

Very concerned with the psychological interpretation of events by his characters, "Death in the Woods" probes those metaphysical questions with which Anderson is so occupied.  Small wonder that this story is one of his favorites!

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