In "Tandy" we meet three interesting characters. Tom Hard, the hard-hearted agnostic, is so busy trying to destroy everyone's belief in God that he can't see God manifested in his own daughter. The child is more appreciated by a tall, red-haired young alcoholic from Cleveland, who stays in Winesburg a while hoping that he can quit drinking. Anderson, by not giving this young man a name, emphasizes his transience and loneliness. Yet he gives to the youthful stranger remarkable perception and articulateness.
On one particular evening when Tom Hard, his daughter, and George Willard are sitting in front of the New Willard House, the stranger approaches and begins to talk. He tries to explain his plight: "I am a lover and have not found my thing to love . . . It makes my destruction inevitable, you see." Of course his description of himself applies to practically every character in the book. The stranger imagines that Tom Hard's daughter might be his ideal woman and he comments bitterly, "It would be like fate to let me stand in her presence once, on such an evening as this, when I have destroyed myself with drink and she is as yet only a child."
The stranger turns from his self-pity and his recognition of life's ironies to describe his ideal woman and expresses one of Anderson's most important ideas. The ideal woman, says the drunken youth, is one who has struggled and been defeated but, out of her defeats, a new quality has been born. This quality, which he calls Tandy, is "the quality of being strong to be loved"; it is something men need from women but do not get. To the child, he says, "Be Tandy, little one . . . Be brave enough to dare to be loved." The little girl apparently understands intuitively what this strange man is saying to her for henceforth she insists that her name is Tandy. He has given her a self-image to live by.
This is a strange story, really a fragment of a story. The opening line is suggestive: "Until she was seven years old she lived in an old unpainted house on an unused road that led off Trunnion Pike." What happened when she was seven? We never know, just as we don't learn what her name was before she changed it to Tandy at the age of five. By such paucity of details, Anderson makes us realize how little we know about other humans, whether they be fictional characters or real people. This ignorance about ourselves and others is partly why it is so difficult to take the stranger's advice: "Be brave enough to dare to be loved."