Last Updated September 5, 2023.
There are many impactful quotes from "The Egg" by Sherwood Anderson, particularly as it relates to the idea of success. Consider the following:
Something happened to the two people. They became ambitious. The American passion for getting up in the world took possession of them.
The narrator describes his parents' transformation after he was born. They decide to make something more of themselves, a decision that causes unhappiness. From that point on, they wrestle with the way in which their dreams do not become reality. They are ambitious but unable to make their ambitions come true. The chicken farm they start is symbolic of these dreams.
They rented ten acres of poor stony land on Griggs's Road, eight miles from Bidwell, and launched into chicken raising. I grew into boyhood on the place and got my first impressions of life there. From the beginning they were impressions of disaster and if, in my turn, I am a gloomy man inclined to see the darker side of life, I attribute it to the fact that what should have been for me the happy joyous days of childhood were spent on a chicken farm.
The narrator's parents start a chicken farm to make money. However, the process of raising chickens is so difficult that it colors the narrator's view of life. Rather than have a joyous childhood, he feels despondent, aware of the ways in which life is so fragile. The egg is symbolic of this fragility, as it is so easily broken. Though his parents hope that chicken farming will make them prosperous, they find their dreams shattered.
Go hunt for gold on the frozen hills of Alaska, put your faith in the honesty of a politician, believe if you will that the world is daily growing better and that good will triumph over evil, but do not read and believe the literature that is written concerning the hen. It was not written for you.
The narrator tells the reader to avoid starting a chicken farm at all costs, as he believes it is a path to disaster. The life of a chicken is very precarious, he believes, and he illustrates the ways in which a chicken can die before reaching maturity. He says that it's far more profitable to search for gold in Alaska or to carry out other unlikely activities such as being able to trust a politician. This is his satirical way of saying that chicken farming is extremely perilous.
When after a half hour's effort he did succeed in making the egg stand for a moment, he looked up to find that his visitor was no longer watching. By the time he had succeeded in calling Joe Kane's attention to the success of his effort, the egg had again rolled over and lay on its side.
The narrator describes how his father attempted to prop an egg up to fulfill his ambition of entertaining his guests. His father believes that by entertaining his guests he will be successful in his restaurant and boarding house business. However, his father's success is fleeting, as the egg he props up immediately falls, even before his visitor can notice it. This act is symbolic of the futility of trying to change one's life. The author suggests that changing one's fate is as unlikely as being able to prop up an egg to stand on its own. The father fails in this act, just as he fails at achieving success and prosperity.