Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Winesburg. Ohio village of some one thousand inhabitants. All two dozen stories in Winesburg, Ohio are set in Winesburg, a small town probably based on Clyde, Ohio, where Anderson lived as a young boy. One of the qualities that makes Winesburg a novel rather than a simple collection of stories is that the village setting is constant, and the same characters (especially the central character, George Willard) wander through it in different stories. In most editions of the novel, a map of the town’s layout faces the title page and shows its two main roads, Main and Buckeye Streets, the railroad tracks, and the eight most important structures in the town, including the railroad station, the New Willard House hotel, the office of the Winesburg Eagle, and the fairground. Winesburg is like any small midwestern village: Surrounded by farms, it is the regional center of commercial and social life.

The stories concern several of the prominent citizens of the town, including two doctors (Reefy and Parcival), the Presbyterian minister (Reverend Curtis Hartman), and a schoolteacher (Kate Swift). Most of the characters in the stories are lonely, estranged from their fellow townspeople, and incapable of expressing their inner, often neurotic longings. Part of the “revolt from the village” movement in American letters at the beginning of the twentieth century—a literary movement which included poet Edgar Lee Masters (Spoon River Anthology, 1915) and novelist Sinclair Lewis (Main Street, 1920)—Anderson showed the isolation and frustration of...

(The entire section is 659 words.)