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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511

College instructor This ambitious young man is Helen’s pompous, vain instructor at college. Though Helen’s mother believes the professor is a better match for her daughter than any of the men in the town, the professor makes George and Helen appear ‘‘sophisticated’’ in comparison.

Wesley Moyer Wesley Moyer is a...

(The entire section contains 511 words.)

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College instructor
This ambitious young man is Helen’s pompous, vain instructor at college. Though Helen’s mother believes the professor is a better match for her daughter than any of the men in the town, the professor makes George and Helen appear ‘‘sophisticated’’ in comparison.

Wesley Moyer
Wesley Moyer is a farmer and owner of a livery stable in Winesburg who brags about winning a horse race with his stallion, Tony Tip, at the Winesburg County Fair. When George overhears Wesley’s boasting, he becomes inflamed with anger at the small-mindedness of the townspeople and decides to find Helen—the one person he feels he can identify with.

Helen White
Helen White is the daughter of the only banker in the town of Winesburg. She has a certain elegance that causes George to distinguish her from others. In fact, ‘‘When the moment of sophistication came to George Willard his mind turned to Helen White, the Winesburg banker’s daughter.’’ Helen is a college girl who is home for the county fair. Her mother has invited Helen’s college instructor along with her for a visit, and she says to him, ‘‘There is no one here fit to associate with a girl of Helen’s breeding.’’ Helen is vain enough to want to be seen in public with the professor because he is a welldressed stranger. However, in a short time she finds him to be empty and conceited. Thus, like George Willard, she too is caught between her past and her future; between people she perceives as country bumpkins and a professor whom she initially admired but has found to be flawed, between her girlish vanity and developing grace. In the midst of this conflict, she seeks out George, and together in the grandstand at the empty fairground, a moment of understanding—at once sad and fulfilling— passes between them.

George Willard
George Willard is an eighteen-year-old newspaper writer in the small town of Winesburg, Ohio, who seeks to rise above the constraints of his unsophisticated background. However, his distaste of small-town life does not prevent many people around town from seeking his company and advice, because they see in him hope and possibility. While examining his life after forming goals for his future, the dissonance between who he is and who he wants to become forms the basis for his moment of ‘‘sophistication’’ with Helen. This discomfort with his past leads George on the journey to adulthood as he reacts to his upbringing, finally rejecting most of it—except for what he has found with Helen, another soul also on the brink of maturity, who understands him.

George is angry because of the lack of culture among the adults in the community. He is saddened by the unfulfilled lives he has seen and heard of; he is frightened at the loneliness he feels: ‘‘He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.’’

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