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Cindy Amador Professor Brown Eng 242 July 24th, 2012 Analytical essay on: Sherwood Anderson: Winesburg, Ohio Born in 1876, U.S. author Sherwood Anderson left his family and career to become a writer in Chicago. His first mature work, Winesburg, Ohio, was a collection of sketches about the obscure lives of citizens in a small town. His style of using everyday speech in his prose writing effectively sealed his reputation. Winesburg, Ohio, which appeared in 1919, remains a major work of experimental fiction and was in its time a bold treatment of small-town life in the American Midwest. The formal achievement of the book lay in its articulation of individual tales to a loose but coherent structure. The lives of a number of people living in the town of Winesburg are observed by the naïve adolescent George Willard, a reporter for the local newspaper. Their stories contribute to his understanding of life and to his preparation for a writer. The book ends when his mother dies and he leaves Winesburg. The reader can see how the lives of the characters have been profoundly distorted by the frustration and suppression of so many of their desires. The intention of Winesburg, Ohio is to show that life in all American small towns is grotesque in the same way. Anderson’s attitude toward the characters mixes compassion for the individual with dismay at a social order that can do so much damage. Winesburg, Ohio begins with a sort of prologue, in which an old writer imagines all the people he has known as "grotesques," warped in their pursuits of various truths. A series of stories

but went by the less euphonic name of Adolph Myers." She remembers her girlhood. She gets up and hears Tom haranguing their son." describes Wing Biddlebaum. entitled "Hands. and spends his time airing his grievances. Looking at herself in the mirror. after Elizabeth has been in bed for several days. and they frequently sit together for long periods of time without talking. each concerned with a single resident of Winesburg. As Adolph Myers he was much loved by the boys of his school”. lamenting the fact that he should have achieved great things politically. she realizes that George has not come to see her. ghostly figure. wandering aimlessly through their home. but now time has passed him by. which is perpetually on the verge of failure. like her marriage. run a boarding house in Winesburg. and make something of yourself”.2 ensues. a recluse with remarkable hands that he cannot control. One night. an energetic man with a zest for politics. The first. He is a Democrat in a heavily Republican town. who has fled from false accusations of molesting a boy in another town. “In his youth Wing Biddlebaum had been a school teacher in a town in Pennsylvania. Elizabeth is frequently ill and has become a pale. she decides that she must make herself appear more impressive. She and her husband. George Willard's mother. more beautiful and terrible before she kills her husband. and becomes concerned. Tom Willard. The relationship between Elizabeth and her son is stiff and uncomfortable. and her plan slips away. or by walking about with male guests from the boarding house. This infuriates Elizabeth. Tom. "Mother" is concerned with Elizabeth Willard. is embarrassed by his wife. urging George to "wake up. It will be a release for all of us. George . He was not then known as Wing Biddlebaum. "When I have killed him. But her sudden burst of energy subsides. "something will snap within me and I will die also." she tells herself. and she decides that she will kill her husband. when she used to scandalize the town by dressing up in men's clothes and riding a bicycle.

One has difficulty imagining Elizabeth. Understandably. The unhappiness of women. and Kate Swift." These physical details mirror the interior states of Elizabeth and Tom Willard." with her marriage to Tom. Ohio. turning her into a "ghostly figure" with a gaunt frame and a scarred face. "Mother" takes the reader inside the Willard household. Louise Bentley. "Within him. who are both like "things defeated and done for. only to have her dreams of an adventurous life collapse amid an unhappy marriage and the wasting illness that afflicts her. probably in a year or two. however. is just that: an emotion-induced impulse. She associates her own unhappiness. both Elizabeth and Tom find themselves living vicariously through their son. running through the lives of Elizabeth Willard. It is the thing I let be killed in myself. Her urge to kill Tom." Tom Willard had political ambitions that have come to nothing. while his wife had a wild youth. Amid this . "there is a secret something that is striving to grow. Elizabeth feels a "secret bond" with her son. Tom urges George to go out and make something of his life because he himself never did. she slides easily back into her ghostly routine." she thinks. leaving her alone in the dark house. mustering the energy or the will to do anything so drastic. running about with various men. the boarding house they own has "faded wall paper" and "ragged carpets. presenting an unhappy marriage in which husband and wife are alienated from one another. He goes out for a walk. the death of her "secret something. As her urge and energy fade." This sense of deficiency is the cause of Elizabeth's tense rivalry with her husband for influence over George. both married and unmarried is a persistent theme in Winesburg. weak and worn out as she is.3 enters and talks to her awkwardly for a moment about his intention to leave Winesburg. and thus sees Tom as a threat to George's happiness as well. An atmosphere of decay permeates the family: Elizabeth Willard's body is slowly falling apart.

the rural. picturesque setting of a typical. American. Alice is little more than a typical old maid. she feels a restlessness taking hold of her and a desperate need to be loved. Most of these deformations spring from two linked sources--alienation and loneliness. alienation and despair in what one might suppose a gentler. or Elizabeth Willard stuck in a loveless marriage. Alice Hindman is a rather predictable specimen. Again and again. jilted by her only lover. they are disappointed. are simply starved for love. unmarried and unhappy because of her solitude. like the Ned Currie who can appreciate better than anyone else the simple pleasures of life. and public opinion proves a powerful force in shaping individuals. the unhappiness of married life is a persistent theme in the book. The souls of Anderson's Winesburgers are all somehow deformed. a manifestation of the fact that she is not considered a strong individual. her supposed "true love" left town. is one of the few places in the novel where Anderson makes use of a stereotype instead of creating an authentic character. The overall structure of the book is determined . grasped only by a few. Anderson was a master of literary naturalism. Still. Anderson finds unhappiness. and again and again. an ex-teacher in hiding after being accused of molesting a student.4 company. abandoning her. small town. however. The existence of social norms. Even the explanation for her old maid status is formulaic--when she was younger. Happiness is a rare commodity in Winesburg. offering a harsh and pessimistic assessment of the human condition. Others. Some of Anderson's characters are completely cut off from human contact. Her nude adventure on a rainy day notwithstanding. like Alice Hindman. There is little depth in the book's treatment of Alice's loneliness. hoping to quell their loneliness through love or companionship. like Wing Biddlebaum. characters reach out to other people. Indeed. especially women. constrains the town's inhabitants. “Adventure”. more innocent place. Her section.

to the edge of adulthood. The degeneration of communal bonds between people: sexual. and fantasy. The decision to base all of one's existence on an absolute truth transformed the figure into a grotesque and the truth into a lie. It originated after World War I because of disillusionment toward a modern society which was materialistic and businessindustry oriented. The senses of modern men were anesthetized and they lacked personal identity. surrealism. the reader goes with him. in the last story of the novel. and in many stories he is only there as a listener. and ritual modes of religion. Anderson allows us to track his development from a callow youth who has foolish fancies. George takes the train away from Winesburg. the newspaper reporter and budding writer who crops up repeatedly. When. it provides a background for examining the breakdown of the . and nearepiphanies. after his mother's death.5 by the development of George Willard. leaving behind the grotesques to their futile search for love and happiness in a small and unfeeling world. a filter between his fellow townsfolk and the reader. friendship. though. In the closing stories. was a common theme first traced by Anderson. The narrator often employs a theme of mock sentimentality toward the old. He did not believe that an author could not write about both or about the collision of these worlds but he feared that authors would become stuck on realism or naturalism and forget about the importance of dreams. Anderson believed that one should keep separate the worlds of realism and fantasy. idealism. he steps forward into manhood and prepares to leave Winesburg for the wider world. More largely. colloquial farmland that Winesburg represents as small town. familial. appearing in fifteen of the twenty-four stories. His journey takes place in the background for much of the book: he is the person to whom the other Winesburgers pour out their hearts. sexual adventures. Each of his figures grasped at least one truth as absolute and made it their mantra. The isolated human of modernity was unfit for the love of men or community.

The stories are brief glimpses of people failing. and rebirth.6 archetypal patterns of human existence: sacrifice. and the distrust of modern industrial society. In his later works. . Throughout His works. the small-town environment. Sherwood Anderson encouraged simplicity and directness of style. The moments described by the short stories are usually the moments when the passion tries to resurface but no longer has the strength. initiation. of some kind or another. Sherwood Anderson revealed his three main concerns with the human condition: the individual quest for self and social betterment. he made attractive the use of the point of view of outsider characters as a way of criticizing conventional society. Many are lonely introverts who struggle with a burning fire which still smolders inside of them. he included his interest in human psychology and the sense of conflict between inner and outer worlds. He gave the craft of the short story a decided push toward stories presenting a slice of life or a significant moment as opposed to panorama and summary. Most of the figures share the similar history of a failed passion in life.

7 Works Cited BAYM. Nina. William L. 24 July 2012. The Norton anthology of American literature. Web. Academic Search Complete. Phillips. "Sherwood Anderson's Beyond Desire And The Industrial South. . Ohio." American Literature 23.1 (1951): 7." Mississippi Quarterly 63. Academic Search Complete. 1. c1989.3/4 (2010): 655-678. "How Sherwood Anderson Wrote Winesburg. New York: Norton. 12 ed. th ESPLUGAS. CELIA. 24 July 2012. v. Web. ISBN 03939573812.

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