Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
George Willard, the young reporter who learns about life from confessions and observations of townspeople. The son of an insensitive man and a sensitive mother, young Willard accepts the practical help of his father but follows the inclinations of his mother in accepting his job. Living as he does in the family hotel, which has seen better days, he runs alone and thinks long thoughts. Something about him draws the weak, the insecure, and the hopeless as well as the clever and strong. His loyalties to those who give him their confidences are unflinching. He takes advantage of a lonely farm girl, but only at her insistence, and then secretly. On the other hand, he has an exaggerated sense of chivalry concerning the girl whom he has long admired. He is searching for the truth. This search finally, after his mother’s death, takes him away from the town that formed him.
Elizabeth Willard, his mother, whose hotel and life savings never benefit anyone, but whose spirit serves as a bond and inspiration to two men. Promiscuous in her youth, though in search of spirituality, Mrs. Willard had married on the hearsay of village wives expressing contentment. Never in love with her husband, she cherishes a beautiful memory of a lover who murmured to her, “Oh, the dear, the dear, the lovely dear.” The two who loved her most, her son and Dr. Reefy, repeat these words to her dead but seemingly...
(The entire section is 710 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Winesburg, Ohio Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
The tales that comprise Winesburg, Ohio are complete in themselves and can be enjoyed individually, but the volume gains depth when regarded as a unified portrait of young George Willard. Anderson coined the word "grotesques" to describe what in another story might simply be termed the "village characters."
Each of the twenty-four stories concludes with " — concerning Wing Biddlebaum," or " — concerning Joe Welling." The characters are shadowy figures who are not clearly defined, although they apparently meet Anderson's needs in telling his story.
In the story "Hands — concerning Wing Biddlebaum," George Willard, now a reporter for the Winesburg Eagle, is the only friend the character has in town. His hands were his undoing when, as a young school teacher in Pennsylvania, he stroked the heads and backs of his students, which was misinterpreted as sexual advances, and he was driven out of town. George is his only outlet to the world. Wing loses some of his timidity when he talks with George because he feels free to express himself through gesturing. With other people he tries to hide his hands in his pockets or behind his back so that he won't use them in conversation, but this impedes his ability to talk and to make friends.
There are stories of George's mother, Doctor Reefy, and nameless characters, referred to simply as "the tall dark girl," or "the son of a jeweler," or "a black-haired boy with large ears."...
(The entire section is 382 words.)
He is the main character of the four-part story in the middle of the book, "Godliness." A reluctant farmer, who studied to be a minister but took over the family farm when his brothers died in the Civil War, his farm grew huge over the course of several decades. Jesse believes that the growth of his farm was God's will, and in his old age, he wants to sacrifice a lamb to God, as Abraham did in the Bible. His grandson David Bentley, who he takes along to the sacrifice, fears that the old man intends to kill him with the knife instead, and he shoots Jesse in the head with a slingshot, just as David did to Goliath in the Bible.
In "Hands," the story of Wing Biddlebaum is revealed: the citizens of Winesburg know nothing of his past before he came to town because he was run out of his former town, were he was a schoolteacher accused of touching one of his male students inappropriately.
She spends time with George Willard, dating him casually. Her true love is Ed Handby, a bartender at the saloon, but he is too embarrassed to ask her out until he has enough money to date her in style. In "An Awakening," Ed does approach her while she is on a date with George, shoving George aside repeatedly while the lovers discuss their mutual affection.
In "The Strength of God," Reverend Hartman, who...
(The entire section is 2405 words.)