Taka's Reviews > Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
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's review
Dec 24, 2011

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bookshelves: american_lit, iu-fall-2011
Read from December 24 to 27, 2011

Interesting tales--

These twenty-two short tales reminded me of Dostoevsky in the intensity of the characters' suffering and their quest for love. My favorites "A Man of Ideas," "Respectability," "Loneliness," and two actually linked stories, "The Strength of God" and "The Teacher."

Anderson has a knack for portraying eccentric characters with their strange and endearing obsessions (e.g., the son of a eccentric store wanting to prove one's not a "queer" in the old-fashioned meaning of the term, or a priest resisting the irresistible and sinful urge for voyeurism), as well as their struggle with loneliness and their attempts at connecting with others.

But the stories were too loosely linked for me, and I wanted more connection—which admittedly could be the point—or at least close links among the stories. In fact, only "The Strength of God" and "The Teacher" are really strongly linked stories in that they tell stories of the same event from different perspectives. There is some sense of connection, or rather a chain of causes and effects in the last three stories that lead up to the "protagonist" leaving the town, but that's about it. Some characters are mentioned briefly in more than one story and George Willard does appear in most of the stories, but they don't seem to form any coherent narrative arc. Do they portray the community of Winesburg as a whole? I'm not sure. Because a lot of characters don't reappear in other stories, I don't think reading each community member's story illuminated the community per se.

What is conveyed are the sense of loneliness and isolation everyone experiences in Winesburg and their yearning to connect with others. Winesburg is, to use an oxymoron, a very lonely community, or more accurately, a community of loners. Which is all the more poignant given how true it still is, or all the more so in not just Middle America but in big cities anywhere in the world. The more people there are, the lonelier each member gets. So this theme is definitely more relevant today, and it was interesting to see a book written in the early 1900s about a small town in Ohio comes to portray the modern malaise so well.

Overall, good stories.

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