What makes the conflict intriguing in "Sophistication"?

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"Sophistication" is one chapter of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. In this novel, the chapters are loosely organized and thematically connected so that in some ways it resembles a collection of short stories. The protagonist is George Willard. Because he is considering leaving the small town of...

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"Sophistication" is one chapter of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. In this novel, the chapters are loosely organized and thematically connected so that in some ways it resembles a collection of short stories. The protagonist is George Willard. Because he is considering leaving the small town of Winesburg, the chapter’s primary conflict may be considered internal: it consists of George weighing the pros and cons of his transition to adulthood. Two elements of that transition are starting a new job in the city and his feelings about Helen, the young woman with whom he is romantically involved. George does not merely analyze his options or ponder his mixed feelings; he also discusses them with Helen. This creates a person versus person conflict of George versus Helen.

George is portrayed as walking through the town, down its main street and to Helen’s house. As he walks, he feels jealous over Helen as he considers their possible future. She is already living in Cleveland, and he suspects that she is developing feelings for one of her teachers.

Anderson does not merely present George’s views, however. He makes the story more interesting by adding Helen’s perspective. She is not really interested in the college instructor who is visiting her. Instead, she lumps him together with other conceited, upper-class men.

The author adds an ironic element related to the immaturity of two young people who believe they are making adult decisions. With their feelings bottled up, they cannot find the words to communicate, but the author resolves both their internal conflicts, albeit temporarily. The couple reverts to their childish behavior, running and laughing through the night, but then reaches a quiet, unified moment.

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