Alice Hindman, a clerk at Winney’s Dry Goods Store, lives with her mother and stepfather in Winesburg. At sixteen, Alice had a love affair with a reporter at the Winesburg Eagle named Ned Currie. The two fell in love, but Ned refused to let Alice follow him when he moved to Cleveland for a city newspaper job. After having sex, Ned assured Alice that “now we will have to stick to each other” and that he would come back for her when he got a good job.
At sixteen, Alice Hindman’s relationship with Ned Currie is the center of her life. Ned’s assurance that they will stay together forever only makes his absence that much more difficult for Alice, who is devastated when Ned leaves for Cleveland but sure that he will soon return to spend the rest of his life with her.
Ned did not succeed at getting a job in Cleveland and moved onto Chicago instead. At first, he wrote Alice almost every day but gradually forgot about her and his old life in Winesburg. Alice clung onto the hope that either Ned would return to her or that she would save enough money to travel to Chicago and win him back. She denied the advances of other men, convinced that still belonged to Ned although she was increasingly lonely and afraid that he would never return. At twenty-two years old, she decided to join the Winesburg Methodist Church because she was afraid that her isolated lifestyle would make her unattractive to Ned if he came back for her.
Although Ned Currie continues living his life after forgetting about her, Alice’s reaction to the loss of her true love is one of all-consuming grief. Unable to move on from the memory of Ned and the nagging thought that he may still return one day, she closes herself off from other relationships. Alice’s decision to join the Winesburg Methodist Church suggests that she is desperate to find an external source of meaning to replace the love she lost.
In the present day, twenty-seven-year-old Alice decides to have an “adventure” that scares and confuses her but also fills her with “youth and courage.” Overcome with the impulsive desire to run naked through the street, she strips off her clothes and runs out of the house into the rain. In her wild desperation, Alice calls out to an old man who is passing by but immediately falls to the ground in fear over what she has done. She goes back inside and resigns herself to the fact that she is one of “many people who must live and die alone.”
Similar to her motivations behind joining the church, Alice suddenly becomes convinced that a risky adventure will somehow endow her lonely life with meaning. Her decision backfires, only serving as a reminder of how isolated she is. Afraid of making an irreparable mistake, Alice convinces herself that she is doomed to “live and die alone.”