Winesburg, Ohio | Study Guide

Sherwood Anderson

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Winesburg, Ohio | Adventure | Summary

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Summary

Life has, for the most part, left Alice Hindman behind. By the time George is a young man, Alice has become an old maid, living with her mother and working as a clerk in the dry goods store of Winesburg, where she has lived all her life. But when Alice was 16 she had one "adventure" in the form of an affair with Ned Currie. Ned was older than she was, and had been a reporter for the newspaper. Alice gives him all her love, and somehow "he became excited and said things he did not intend to say." When Ned determines to leave Winesburg to get a job at a newspaper in Cleveland, Alice wants to go with him, but he puts her off, telling her he will go first and then send for her. On that promise they make plans to stick together no matter what.

But Ned doesn't get the job in Cleveland. Instead, he moves on to Chicago, where he becomes distracted by other women, and rarely remembers Alice. For a year or so Ned and Alice exchange letters, but before long he ceases to respond. In the long years after Ned's departure, Alice has several opportunities to marry someone else, but she clings to the hope he will someday send for her. Alice's mother remarries, and life goes on. Finally, one night Alice has an "adventure" in which she dashes outside into the rain and cries out to an old man standing at the sidewalk for him to wait for her. The man can't hear her, and in utter dejection Alice falls to the ground, and crawls back into the house with the certainty some people are destined to "live and die alone, even in Winesburg."

Analysis

For some reason Alice has allowed life to so thoroughly pass her by even her own mother has moved on by taking a second husband, thus leaving Alice behind. The idealism of romance Alice has built around herself, and preventing her from giving up on her absent sweetheart Ned, is every bit as impenetrable as the wall Louise Bentley constructs for herself in "Part 3|Surrender" of "Godliness: A Tale in Four Parts."

Although Alice has several opportunities to fall in love with someone else, no other man can compare to Ned, and Alice remains the determinedly faithful sweetheart. In this she imagines herself as a paradigm of fidelity, and therefore unique among women. She seems unaware most every family has someone like Alice, so she is hardly a unique case. The point is this is the "truth" which Alice holds to herself until she becomes "grotesque," or at least pathetic in her desperate attempt to give herself to an unknown man she sees standing across the street. While her first "adventure" with Ned has set her up in a lovely and comfortable cage built on romantic notions, her second, made out of what she has become in reality, only serves to frighten her.

A reflection of Alice posting her letters to the absent Ned reappears in the last story in the book, "Departure," as George remembers the vision of his own sweetheart, Helen White, posting a letter. The reader is left with the likelihood George has left Helen behind as much as Ned has left Alice. But unlike Alice, it is likely Helen will end up married to some young man from Winesburg, and spend the rest of her life there.

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