Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

by Sherwood Anderson

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Winesburg, Ohio is a short story cycle by American author Sherwood Anderson that captures the lives of the citizens of the small, fictional town. In particular, the stories relate George Willard’s rise to manhood, and follow the character from childhood to the day he finally leaves the small Ohio town of his birth.

The stories of author Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, are believed to have been inspired by his own experiences of life in Clyde, Ohio. The novel is ranked twenty-fourth on Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century.

HarperPerennial Classics brings great works of literature to life in digital format, upholding the highest standards in ebook production and celebrating reading in all its forms. Look for more titles in the HarperPerennial Classics collection to build your digital library.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789897781322
Publisher: Big Cheese Books
Publication date: 11/05/2017
Sold by: De Marque
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Sherwood Anderson was born in Camden, Ohio. Following a brief stint in the Spanish American War, he started a family and founded a business -- both of which he abruptly abandoned at the age of 36 to pursue his life-long dream of writing. His simple and direct writing style, with which he portrayed important moments in the lives of his characters, influenced both Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. His other notable works include Triumph of the Egg; Horses and Men; and A Story Teller's Story.

Read an Excerpt

The writer, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty in getting into bed. The windows of the house in which he lived were high and he wanted to look at the trees when he awoke in the morning. A carpenter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a level with the window.

Quite a fuss was made about the matter. The carpenter, who had been a soldier in the Civil War, came into the writer's room and sat down to talk of building a platform for the purpose of raising the bed. The writer had cigars lying about and the carpenter smoked.

For a time the two men talked of the raising of the bed and then they talked of other things. The soldier got on the subject of the war. The writer, in fact, led him to that subject. The carpenter had once been a prisoner in Andersonville prison and had lost a brother. The brother had died of starvation, and whenever the carpenter got upon that subject he cried. He, like the old writer, had a white mustache, and when he cried he puckered up his lips and the mustache bobbed up and down. The weeping old man with the cigar in his mouth was ludicrous. The plan the writer had for the raising of his bed was forgotten and later the carpenter did it in his own way and the writer, who was past sixty, had to help himself with a chair when he went to bed at night.

In his bed the writer rolled over on his side and lay quite still. For years he had been beset with notions concerning his heart. He was a hard smoker and his heart fluttered. The idea had got into his mind that he would some time die unexpectedly and always when he got into bed he thought of that. It did not alarm him. The effect in fact was quite a special thing and not easily explained. It made him more alive, there in bed, than at any other time. Perfectly still he lay and his body was old and not of much use any more, but something inside him was altogether young. He was like a pregnant woman, only that the thing inside him was not a baby but a youth. No, it wasn't a youth, it was a woman, young, and wearing a coat of mail like a knight. It is absurd, you see, to try to tell what was inside the old writer as he lay on his high bed and listened to the fluttering of his heart. The thing to get at is what the writer, or the young thing within the writer, was thinking about.

The old writer, like all of the people in the world, had got, during his long life, a great many notions in his head. He had once been quite handsome and a number of women had been in love with him. And then, of course, he had known people, many people, known them in a peculiarly intimate way that was different from the way in which you and I know people. At least that is what the writer thought and the thought pleased him. Why quarrel with an old man concerning his thoughts?

In the bed the writer had a dream that was not a dream. As he grew somewhat sleepy but was still conscious, figures began to appear before his eyes. He imagined the young indescribable thing within himself was driving a long procession of figures before his eyes.

You see the interest in all this lies in the figures that went before the eyes of the writer. They were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques.

The grotesques were not all horrible. Some were amusing, some almost beautiful, and one, a woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man by her grotesqueness. When she passed he made a noise like a small dog whimpering. Had you come into the room you might have supposed the old man had unpleasant dreams or perhaps indigestion.

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed before the eyes of the old man, and then, although it was a painful thing to do, he crept out of bed and began to write. Some one of the grotesques had made a deep impression on his mind and he wanted to describe it.

At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called 'The Book of the Grotesque.' It was never published, but I saw it once and it made an indelible impression on my mind. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before. The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this:

That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.

The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.

And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

You can see for yourself how the old man, who had spent all of his life writing and was filled with words, would write hundreds of pages concerning this matter. The subject would become so big in his mind that he himself would be in danger of becoming a grotesque. He didn't, I suppose, for the same reason that he never published the book. It was the young thing inside him that saved the old man.

Concerning the old carpenter who fixed the bed for the writer, I only mentioned him because he, like many of what are called very common people, became the nearest thing to what is understandable and lovable of all the grotesques in the writer's book.

Table of Contents

  • Dedication
  • Introduction
  • The Tales and the Persons
    • The Book of the Grotesque
    • Hands
    • Paper Pills
    • Mother
    • The Philosopher
    • Nobody Knows
    • Godliness (Parts I and II)
    • Surrender (Part III)
    • Terror (Part IV)
    • A Man of Ideas
    • Adventure
    • Respectability
    • The Thinker
    • Tandy
    • The Strength of God
    • The Teacher
    • Loneliness
    • An Awakening
    • Queer
    • The Untold Lie
    • Drink
    • Death
    • Sophistication
    • Departure

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"When he calls himself a 'poor scribbler' don't believe him. He is not a poor scribbler . . . he is a very great writer."—Ernest Hemingway

"Winesburg, Ohio, when it first appeared, kept me up a whole night in a steady crescendo of emotion."—Hart Crane

"As a rule, first books show more bravado than anything else, unless it be tediousness. But there is neither of these qualities in Winesburg, Ohio. . . . These people live and breathe: they are beautiful."—E. M. Forster

"Winesburg, Ohio is an extraordinarily good book. But it is not fiction. It is poetry."—Rebecca West

Customer Reviews

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Winesburg Ohio 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although it begins slowly and eerily, it does eventually unfold. The stories are connected in an interesting way, and it is up to you to see it either as one big story or a bunch of little ones. It was easy to relate to most of the stories in some way, and this made for a relaxing read. I recommend this to those who have ever lived in a small town.
Daven Carlson More than 1 year ago
Anderson very creatively intertwined the characters of his fictional town. It's as if we're in a 360 degree setting. It is also intriguing how relatively open about human sexuality Anderson is, given the early 1900s time period in which it was written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I had read the book first...the audio version failed to move me. The readers, famous as they may be for their own work, are NOT performers..they were not able to bring the stories alive..they seem pretty uninterested and really untalented. Wonder how much they were paid for their individual 'performances'? Oh well... Might I suggest a REALLY good audio book? Pepys' Diary, read by Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh...a great example of how an audio book should be done.
Anonymous 8 months ago
The most boring, lifeless book I've ever read
Stephen Leary More than 1 year ago
Winesburg, Ohio is a series of stories with the unifying elements of the town, the character of George Willard, and the theme of Willard growing into a man. Such is the "plot." Anderson's method is to see beneath the surface of lives and their psychological underpinnings. Nothing much happens and the chapters offer little more than character sketches--characters of a neurotic variety. Anderson paints his characters as lonely failures. Grotesques outside the ordinary. Reality and real people were not Anderson's strong points. The characters are eager to go elsewhere and make something of themselves if they can. This reflected Anderson's own sojourns from his town of Clyde, Ohio to Chicago and Cleveland. So much seems to be missing in Winesburg. The namesake town itself, for example. Winesburg is almost invisible, with most of the "action" taking place either indoors or at night. Anderson is sparing in details of the nerve points of the city, other than sidewalks or the creek environs where the characters walk. Winesburg was part of a trend toward "interior action" without much in the way of a traditional plot, and alienation themes that impacted writers such as Ernest Hemingway. The influence of Winesburg on later writers seems much greater than its own internal quality outside all other considerations.
jackkane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anderson tells it the way it is for the ordinary folks of a small provincial town: life is bland and bleak, marked by boredom and sexual repression. Intermittent joys are all one has to hope for inside the dull pain of existence. The only way out is by leaving town, and, as Anderson suggests, life in New York and Cleveland isn't much different. As a picture of Anderson's memory of the Midwest at the turn of the 20th century, and as an attempt at dealing with taboo subject matters, 'Winesberg, Ohio' succeeds.The problem is that that's as far as Anderson gets. By the middle of the collection, he has said what he has to say and from then on he keeps repeating himself. The characters' incoherent blabbering ("You'll know what I mean! You see, what I mean is, you know what I mean!") becomes unbearable towards the end. The characters become indistinguishable. They are all grotesque, surrendered, pathetic. They accept suffering, without ever rebelling or even just asking why they have to suffer. There is no disgust or anger at life in Winesberg, there is no humor as a coping tool, there is almost no dignity to be preserved. Rather than a complete, coherent book, the collection is a single overdrawn and overstretched good scene.
rabbitrun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting psychological analysis of why people behave the way they do.
yosarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sherwood Anderson is often credited with writing, in Winesburg Ohio, the first really 'modern' American novel. Or so I've read ... I'm in no position to agree or disagree with that but what I can say is, that despite the age of the book, the short stories even today sound fresh to the ear and still discuss themes and topics contemporary to 'now'.Set in a fictional mid-west small town the book is a collection of short stories about the inhabitants all (very) loosely held together by a young wannabe reporter George Willard. Not all of the stories flatter the characters and the language used is very vivid, which I understand puts some people off Sherwood, denouncing him as having a 'superior attitude', however there are certainly some stories that inspire as Sherwood seems to get right inside the fictional minds of his characters to draw out their deepest and truest characters. The stories themselves can be read individually and I must admit to having dipped back in to the collection again to re-read a few, particularly my favourite story 'Hands'.I would heartily recommend this book to anyone and urge you to keep going with it if it does not instantly grab you; it is well worth any effort you have to put in to read.
deebee1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Considered to be the first American "modern" novel and a masterpiece of 20th century American literature, the book consists of a collection of loosely related short stories of inhabitants of a rural town in the Midwest in the 1900s. Here, Anderson breaks away from two traditions: the use of plot as the focal point and themes about the gentility and romantic and ideal views of rural life. The stories are told to George Willard, a young newspaperman aspiring to be a writer, who seem to draw others into him perhaps because of his sensitivity or being a writer, simply somebody who could understand. From their stories, we see a depiction of alienation, of loneliness, of inner struggles, of unexpressed desires, of unfulfilled sex lives, of frustrated ambitions. We see that each strives for happiness but never quite reaches it, and immediately we sense even from the first stories that their being inarticulate is a common trait that prevents this from happening. Beneath a seeming quiet life is a passionate, tormented soul. The failure to connect is a recurring theme. In attempting to relate their narratives to George, we feel that the characters are trying to inject some meaning into their empty lives. Among others, there is a tale of the old writer who wants to write "a book of grotesques", and a four-part narrative of religious fervor that parodies the biblical tales of Abraham's sacrificing of Isaac, and David and Goliath. The variations of stories of inner fervor but repressed wills are bleak and can be depressing at times. And it almost seems improbable that a town could be peopled at once with so many odd characters, bizarre and angst-ridden individuals. But the book does leave much for thought, and even if we perhaps don't care to admit it, the themes of alienation and frustration are something we recognize, to varying degrees, in our own individual, modern lives.
lgaikwad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some favorite quotes:"All men lead their lives behind a wall of misunderstanding they have themselves built, and most men die in silence and unnoticed behind the walls." "...the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, he called it his truth, and tried to live by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.""Only the few knew the sweetness of the twisted apples.""Be Tandy, little one," he pleaded. "Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy.""I was furious. I couldn't stand it. I wanted her to understand but, don't you see, I couldn't let her understand. I felt that then she would know everything, that I would be submerged, drowned out, you see. That's how it is. I don't know why.""Things went to smash," he said quietly and sadly. "Out she went through the door and all the life there had been in the room followed her out.""...and Hall had suddently become alive when they stood in the corn field stating into each other's eyes.""Love is like a wind stirring the grass beneath trees on a black night," he had said. "You must not try to make love definite. It is the divine accident of life. If you try to be definite and sure about it and to live beneath the trees, where soft night winds blow, the long hot day of disappointment comes swiftly...""I have come to this lonely place and here is this other," was the substance of the thing felt."...the town of Winesburg had disappeared and his there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood."
ShaggyDog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an unbelievably beautiful book! It's the kind of book that makes you want to be a writer.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Restrained, finely crafted, genuine stories about moral and social isolation in small town, turn-of-the-century America, and the lengths people were driven to to combat it. Kind of desolate and depressing, but the humanity and tension of the solitary battles portrayed is very worthwhile. Reminds me of Hemingway's short work, only with much more emotional intelligence, or maybe Carson McCullers' portraits of people fighting similar circumstances in the South.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
#15 in the 2004 Book Challenge)I picked up this in one of those Econo-editions in the checkout line at a book store a few months ago, and found it recently in box where we keep our winter outerwear. I enjoyed it very much. I think this is the sort of book that some people are forced to read in high school and end up hating, and I can see that too, as nothing much happens plot-wise. It's a bunch of chapters that could mostly stand alone, each one focusing on a different person living in this small Ohio town. I've always liked books that explore the notion that average-seeming people with run-of-the-mill type lives have rich, complex, and tumultuous internal landscapes.Grade: A-. Recommended: for people who like that high school lit type of American fiction.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I often judge books by their covers, and well too I should: so much effort goes into their fabrication that it would be a shame not to at least factor their effect into a buying decision. I loved the cover of the Penguin edition immediately.The book itself I found surprisingly refreshing. A short collection of stories, the main character is really Winesburg itself, little town America personified. The book looks at each of the principal actors in the town's life in one particular generation, producing a story for each. They are tied neatly together into a beautiful little package; it's no wonder that this is such a popular piece of American fiction.
tracyjayhawk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable story on the first level, a masterful piece of literature on many others. My favorite story by far is "Godliness." The Biblical symbolism is rife with meaning in this story, as is the theme of running away (like many of the stories. It is especially interesting to examine the stories for the author's own story.
Smiley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first chain of linked short stories I ever read. Seminal American literature about living and leaving small town life in the early years of the last century. Keen and knowing observations on life spent and the promise of life.
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
Original Review @ Winesburg, Ohio is a series of interconnecting short stories (twenty-two in total) published in 1919. It is considered to be one of the earliest works of modernist literature and in 1998, the Modern Library rankedWinesburg, Ohio 24th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Focusing mainly on George Willard, a young man coming of age in the early 1900’s in a small town, all the stories revolve around the citizens in the town. Stories range from tales of the local doctor, school teacher and merchant. Tales of scandal, the women who was the first to have a driver for her carriage, family, the mother who is uninterested in raising her child, and love, a brief affair concerning the town doctor, showcase the citizens of the town. Over one hundred characters are mentioned, some only once and some weave through each story. It was interesting to see that gossip about others was prevalent in that time and that jealousy regarding monetary and social statuses were also heavily in play. There were very obvious social classes and the interaction between the haves and the have nots was a primary focus. This was a very fast read at only 180-ish pages and I did enjoy it. The pacing was quick, as each story was only a few pages long. The world building was superb. Sherwood Anderson created such a complete and well fleshed out world, I could picture the streets, the stores and the houses as I read. The characters fit well in the world and even though you only got glimpses into their world, I understood their motivations and actions. While Winesburg, Ohio is not a typical read for me now, I was a classic English lit major when I started college and have read a large amount of classics in the past. It was nice to get back to my reading roots and delve into a story (in this case stories) that don’t focus on social media mishaps, love found across a bar, or a helicopter parent. Not that I don’t enjoy reads like that, but sometimes focusing on the writing itself is a welcome change. Favorite lines – In all the babble of words that fell from the lips of the men with whom she adventured she was trying to find what would be for her the true word. Little pyramids of truth he erected and after erecting knocked them down again that he might have the truths to erect other pyramids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Lucy-from-PA More than 1 year ago
This is a very negative "story" if that's what it could or would be called. I didn't want to finish it but I thought just maybe there would be a ray of light at the end of the horrendous tunnel. NO They style of writing was ok, northing to write home about. The story was horrible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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BuckeyeGN More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this because it sounded interesting and I had seen it on a couple must-read lists. I ended up taking about twice as long to read it as it should because I found it so horribly boring that I couldn't get myself to actually pick it up to finish it. If you are looking for an enjoyable way to pass time, I would suggest watching paint dry, watching grass grow or just counting how many people on the street have their shirts tucked in over reading this book. The stories are bland and pointless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only objection I have is that is doesn't have the different sections identified in the "context"