George Willard wakes up at four in the morning and prepares to leave Winesburg. He reflects on the beauty of Trunion Pike where he had often walked throughout his youth and decides to go for a walk to the edge of town and back. Shop owners on Main Street greet George along the way and ask him how it feels to be leaving his hometown. Later that morning, Tom Willard carries George’s bag to the train platform and waits with his son. Several townspeople have gathered at the train station to see George off, all wishing him good luck on his journey.
The death of George Willard’s mother Elizabeth, along with his profound final night with Helen White, have given George the push he needs to leave Winesburg and begin his adult life. As he prepares for his new journey, George looks on the town with fondness, reflecting on the beauty of the countryside and his associated childhood memories. The image of the community gathering to see George off reflects the fondness that his town feels for him in return.
When the train pulls into the station at seven forty-five, George hurries aboard before Helen White can have a parting word with him. He counts the money in his wallet, remembering Tom’s instructions to be sharp and keep track of his money. Looking out the train window, George reflects on small but significant memories of his life in Winesburg and the people with whom has grown up. As the train departs and his hometown fades away in the distance, George feels that his life there has become “but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.”
As George becomes momentarily nostalgic, his tendency to focus on simple memories suggests that the subtle moments of one’s everyday life can be more meaningful than significant events. Although George is nervous to set out on his own, the novel ends on a note of optimism as George closes one chapter of his life to begin a new one.