Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Sherwood Anderson

Born in the small farming town of Camden, Anderson drew on his own childhood experiences of rural midwestern life to write Winesburg, Ohio. With an alcoholic father, Anderson and his six siblings had a difficult upbringing rife with financial strife and frequent moves around Ohio. After finally settling in Clyde, Anderson left school at 14 and worked odd jobs in order to help support his family but remained a voracious reader who frequented the local school’s library. Much like Elizabeth’s death inspired George to leave his hometown in Winesburg, Ohio, Anderson left Clyde following the death of his own mother. After spending several years attempting different business ventures while writing on the side, Anderson suffered a mental breakdown that led him to pursue writing full-time. He moved to Chicago where he became a successful author and an influential figure in the city’s literary movement. Anderson went on to publish nine novels as well as several short story collections, poems, and essays.
Get the entire Winesburg, Ohio LitChart as a printable PDF.
Winesburg ohio.pdf.medium

Historical Context of Winesburg, Ohio

Published just after the end of World War I, the listless, melancholic atmosphere of Winesburg, Ohio echoes the general social climate in the wake of this brutal war that was unprecedented in its scale and magnitude. Writers and artists during this time period were nicknamed the “Lost Generation” due to the aimless sense of emptiness that they felt and expressed in their works. The collective societal trauma of World War I is clearly reflected in desolate stagnation that plagues the community of Winesburg. Just as the West sought to rebuild a cohesive identity and sense of purpose after this colossal tragedy, so do Anderson’s characters struggle to find themselves and create meaning in the wake of their personal traumas and failures.

Other Books Related to Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio is widely considered to be one of the earliest works of American Modernism. Written between World War I and World War II, works in this literary movement often explored crises of mind, body, and spirit and featured characters who struggled to find themselves in the midst of psychological or external turmoil. Modernist novels such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath are thematically similar to Winesburg, Ohio as they tackle themes of existential meaninglessness, madness, and economic challenges. Anderson’s novel also draws heavily on the Southern Gothic genre epitomized by William Faulkner, as it offers an explicit portrayal of life’s disturbing, grotesque realities amidst a bleak landscape.
Key Facts about Winesburg, Ohio
  • Full Title: Winesburg, Ohio
  • When Written: 1915-1916
  • When Published: 1919
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short story cycle
  • Setting: The fictional small town of Winesburg, Ohio
  • Climax: After the Winesburg County Fair, George Willard has an epiphany of maturation as he overlooks the town with Helen White.
  • Antagonist: Winesburg
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient, first person singular

Extra Credit for Winesburg, Ohio

Will the Real Winesburg Please Stand Up. While Winesburg, Ohio is a real place, it is distinct from the eponymous fictional town in Anderson’s novel and did not serve as its inspiration. Instead, the stories in Winesburg, Ohio are based loosely on Anderson’s childhood growing up in the tiny town of Clyde, Ohio.

Pop Culture Icon. Winesburg, Ohio has withstood the test of time to appear in several contemporary television shows. Characters on Fear the Walking Dead, Pretty Little >Liars, and Orange is the New Black have all been spotted with copies of the novel.