Sherwood Anderson offers a clue as to the theme of his book in its preface, "A Book of the Grotesque," which states that the novel's characters all tried to live their lives according to a truth that was relative and partial, embracing it as if it were complete and total. The characters are inarticulate. Desperate that their lives should have a sense of meaning and purpose, they approach George Willard, who aspires to be a journalist. Unlike them, George is articulate, and the townspeople hope that he can bring a sense of meaning to their lives in narrating their experiences, thereby giving their existence both value and a sense of purpose. The novel is comprised of short stories in which the characters struggle to tell their stories to George. At the time that "Winesburg, Ohio" was written, Freud's thought was much in vogue, and it may be helpful to a fuller appreciation of these stories to keep that in mind as they are read.
This report prepared by Gary L. Pullman
Winesburg, Ohio is a selection of short stories, loosely strung together around the main character, the town of Winseburg. One individual does figure in more of the stories than any other single person - the town's young journalist - but there are stories where he does not appear (and seeing him through other eyes, after seeing the others through his, is disconcerting). This book was one of the early "realist" critiques of small-town, mid-Western American culture. Most are patterned after it. Though I find that critique irritating and inaccurate, it is worth reading simply for the story entitled: "Hands."
This report prepared by Kelly Whiting