Winesburg, Ohio | Study Guide

Sherwood Anderson

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Winesburg, Ohio | Nobody Knows | Summary



George is determined to set out on an adventure, because Louise Trunnion has sent him a note that says, "I'm yours if you want me." All day long, George has been thinking about ways to meet up with Louise. He finds himself trembling over nearly having tripped over a cat and a drunk in his nervousness to get away from the office, dodging in and out of the alleyway until he finds himself outside Louise's house. It takes him five minutes of watching her through the window to find his voice and call out her name. When she meets him at the fence, he is disappointed by her casual and calm manner. She imperiously instructs him to wait for her by the neighbor's barn, and then makes sure he knows she has little time, because her father will be expecting her back soon. George is confused by her words intended to make him think she cares nothing for him, and her movements that finally tell him she wants him. Mustering his courage, George steers Louise to a secluded spot. Several hours later, George is feeling pretty good about himself. He strolls into the drugstore, buys himself a cigar, and then waits for "a voice calling his name." When he hears nothing, George laughs and figures since nobody knows, Louise has nothing on him.


"Nobody Knows" is the first of three stories in which George finds himself courting a young woman, and learns something new from the results of each experience. The three stories in sequence present a lack of physicality while emotional elements increase in complexity. Although in this first of the three stories George gets to express his physical masculinity, it is perhaps the most emotionally superficial of his romances in Winesburg. George is extremely fired up over the note Louise has sent him, while she herself is singularly detached, and more concerned over not having much time to give him than in what they might do together. The next encounter George has is with Belle Carpenter in "An Awakening." That relationship is a bit more complex, in that Belle makes George believe he is more interesting to her than he really is. For a while, he is unaware she is using him to make her lover, Ed Handby, jealous. He hardly makes any physical headway with Belle before Ed comes crashing in on them to take Belle for himself. George's final experience is with Helen White in "Sophistication," near the end of the book. This one comes closest to an in-depth romance for George, but is even less connected to sex than the previous ones.

The passing of notes is an activity between the young men and women of Winesburg in several of the stories. In "Part 3|Surrender" of "Godliness: A Tale in Four Parts," Louise Bentley sends a note to John Hardy to start up a friendship and eventually a marriage she thinks she should have, but doesn't really want. Alice Hindman writes many letters to her absent sweetheart Ned Currie in the story "Adventure," but Ned never asks her to join him. The note Louise sends George in "Nobody Knows" also contains something of a misunderstanding. While George invests it with all the trappings of romantic love such that he can hardly contain himself to meet with her, Louise apparently intends a quick sexual episode with him and nothing else. George listens to hear a "voice"—perhaps his conscience—calling for him. The entire episode is really empty and unsatisfying (no physical details of any kind are given), and the reader may wonder if the fact that "nobody knows" is more good than bad for the young man, since apparently it means nothing to anyone, a random coupling.

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