Why is Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson a Modernist novel?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Winesburg, Ohio, which was published in 1919, stands as a tremendously innovative and significant work in modern American literature. Sherwood Anderson created a new novel form in which a series of short stories is unfied through interlocking characters, mainly through the frequent appearance of a primary character, George Willard. A young man who has grown up in Winesburg, George appears in most of the stories, sometimes as a leading character and sometimes as a supporting one. The collection of stories taken together creates a new character, the village of Winesburg itself. As a novel, Winesburg, Ohio is therefore character driven, revealing various, individual human truths without developing the traditional central plot of a novel.

Also quite innovative in Anderson's novel is his break with the traditional view of the American small town. Winesburg is presented not as a village of friends and neighbors living in a warm and supportive community, but instead as a community comprised of tortured souls who endure their torment in lonely isolation. Anderson's characters he termed "grotesques," individuals who become obsessed with one idea, ambition, or pursuit to the exclusion of life's deeper truths. This realistic portrayal of human existence, with its psychological implications, makes Winesburg, Ohio modern indeed in its literary themes.



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Winesburg, Ohio

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