Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

by

Sherwood Anderson

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Doctor Reefy Character Analysis

A local doctor who is plagued by tragedy and subsequently haunted by grief and loneliness. Reefy is deeply introspective and poetic, constantly scribbling down thoughts on scraps of paper as he tries obsessively to make sense of life’s meaning. As a middle-aged man, Reefy falls in love with a young girl who comes to him as a patient when she accidentally becomes pregnant. The girl has a miscarriage and marries Reefy but dies a few months later. After her death, Reefy largely neglects his medical practice and resigns himself to a solitary existence in his cluttered office above the Paris Dry Goods Company store. Doctor Reefy finds solace in the company of Elizabeth Willard, the only person who commiserates with the sense of alienation that he feels. Elizabeth starts out as one of Reefy’s patients and the two develop a close friendship based around deep conversations about their lives. He believes that Elizabeth prays to the same contrived “gods” that he has created for himself and is able to perceive the youthful beauty hidden beneath her downtrodden exterior. Reefy and Elizabeth almost begin a romantic affair that is cut short when Elizabeth dies of her ongoing illness.

Doctor Reefy Quotes in Winesburg, Ohio

The Winesburg, Ohio quotes below are all either spoken by Doctor Reefy or refer to Doctor Reefy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Winesburg, Ohio published in 1993.
1. The Book of the Grotesque Quotes

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
3. Paper Pills Quotes

Little pyramids of truth he erected and after erecting knocked them down again that he might have the truths to erect other pyramids.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Doctor Reefy
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy’s hands…Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Elizabeth Willard, Doctor Reefy
Related Symbols: Hands
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:
23. Death Quotes

“I had come to the time in my life when prayer became necessary and so I invented gods and prayed to them…Then I found that this woman Elizabeth knew, that she worshipped also the same gods. I have a notion that she came to the office because she thought the gods would be there but she was happy to find herself not alone just the same.”

Related Characters: Doctor Reefy (speaker), Elizabeth Willard
Page Number: Page 211
Explanation and Analysis:

“Love is like a wind stirring the grass beneath trees on a black night,” he had said. “You must not try to make love definite. It is the divine accident of life. If you try to be definite and sure about it and to live beneath the trees, where soft night winds blow, the long hot day of disappointment comes swiftly and the gritty dust from passing wagons gathers upon lips inflamed and made tender by kisses.”

Related Characters: Doctor Reefy (speaker), Elizabeth Willard, Tom Willard
Page Number: Page 211
Explanation and Analysis:
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Doctor Reefy Character Timeline in Winesburg, Ohio

The timeline below shows where the character Doctor Reefy appears in Winesburg, Ohio. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
3. Paper Pills
Alienation Theme Icon
Doctor Reefy is an old man who was once affluent and well-known in Winesburg. In his younger... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
Forgotten by the town of Winesburg in the wake of his wife’s death, Doctor Reefy now leads a lonely, solitary existence in his empty office above the Paris Dry Goods... (full context)
Grief Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
The narrator likens Doctor Reefy to the delicious, sweet twisted apples that are rejected by the pickers in Winesburg’s orchards.... (full context)
23. Death
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...shifts backward to a few years prior when George Willard is around thirteen years old. Doctor Reefy has an office above the Paris Dry Goods Company store that is spacious but full... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
Elizabeth opens up more and more each time she comes to see Doctor Reefy , and his company serves as a solace from her dull days spent sick in... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
At forty-one years old, Elizabeth sits in Doctor Reefy ’s office discussing her marriage with an impersonal detachment. She regrets not heeding her father’s... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Elizabeth tells Doctor Reefy about an incident that happened soon after her marriage when she desperately ran away in... (full context)
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
This moment of passion is the last meeting between Elizabeth and Doctor Reefy . A few months later, Elizabeth succumbs to her ongoing illness and dies before she... (full context)