Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Literary Timeline Six Novel Ideas My Favorite Novel Elements of the Novel Top Novel Lists About the Program
Navigate through 200 years of the American Novel using scrollable tools and pulldown menus.
Use these pulldown menus to read more about novels, authors & movements.
Winesburg, Ohio
Winesburg, Ohio
WINESBURG, OHIO, by Sherwood Anderson
Sherwood Anderson sprang to fame in 1919 with the publication of his collection of 24 interlocking short stories that together function as a novel. The stories describe the inarticulate, desperate struggles of isolated people to assert their individuality in the face of cruel indifference and outright hostility. Noted for his poetic realism and psychological insight, Anderson expressed the loneliness and frustration of Midwestern small town life, a motif echoed most notably in the novels of Sinclair Lewis. Anderson reveals that such a life is neither innocent nor gentle, as so many suppose; rather, it is often as cruel and constraining as the stereotypes of "big city" life.

Anderson describes his characters as "grotesques" because they have been twisted and deformed by their powerlessness to share their dreams, hopes, and fears with others, due to social norms, misfortune, and tragedy. Some characters, such as Alice Hindman, jilted by her lover, have become grotesque through lack of love; others, such as Wing Biddlebaum and Enoch Robinson, have become wretched due to extreme isolation. Despite the cruel disappointments of their lives, the characters desperately reach out in a vain attempt to assuage their isolation through contact with others.

In addition to the commonality of theme, George Willard, a young reporter on the WINESBURG EAGLE, serves to unite the stories. The people in Winesburg hope he will help them communicate and achieve some measure of dignity.


The American Novel