Winesburg, Ohio | Study Guide

Sherwood Anderson

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Winesburg, Ohio | Sophistication | Summary

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Summary

One fall evening during the Winesburg County Fair, George spends his time watching the crowds. George is determined to leave Winesburg following the death of his mother, and feels the need to communicate his feelings to someone who will understand: "With all his heart, he wants to come close to some other human, touch someone with his hands, be touched by the hand of another." With this in mind, he seeks out Helen White. For her part Helen finds herself becoming a woman, and wants George to be aware of her change, too. They had come close to sharing this understanding earlier in the summer, but it never quite materialized.

George, in his state of unsettled restlessness, seeks out Helen, and they go walking together along a path to Waterworks Pond. At first George and Helen attempt to exchange gestures between a man and a woman, but they still have a bit of the child in them. Embarrassed, George and Helen end up pulling and pushing each other, laughing, running, and rolling about. In their joyful play "they had, for a moment taken hold of the thing that makes the mature life of men and women in the modern world possible."

Analysis

The delightful playfulness of George and Helen at the end of this story is punctuated by their several attempts at a romantic expression. But the timing for this expression is not yet ripe for either of them.

If George had not left Winesburg—as he will in "Departure"—the reader is left to wonder if maybe in time the two of them would find some foundation of love on which to build a life. Whether or not this would have happened is in doubt, however, given the many examples of unhappy matches—such as Ned Currie and Alice Hindman in "Adventure," or Elizabeth and Tom Willard in "Mother" and "Death." George has already set himself on a trajectory to leave town. Would Helen leave with him? Is it possible she might leave on her own to go looking for him, or even leave to find herself? Or, is it possible Helen has within her a longing so powerful she will become unable to contain it, as was the case with Louise Bentley? This book, however, is not Helen's story, it is George's.

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