Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

by

Sherwood Anderson

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Elizabeth Willard Character Analysis

George Willard’s mother. Elizabeth inherited the New Willard House hotel from her father, and it is now run by her husband Tom Willard. Elizabeth is chronically ill with a depressive demeanor and spends her days sick and isolated in her bedroom. As a young girl, Elizabeth was an adventurous free spirit who had several lovers and longed to escape Winesburg. She settled on an unfulfilling marriage with Tom and has spent her adult life haunted by the regrets of her failed aspirations and broken dreams. As a result of her own mistakes, Elizabeth has a complicated and unhealthy relationship with her son George. She is ambivalent toward George’s future—hopeful that he will lead a meaningful life, afraid that he will leave her, and resentful that he may succeed while she never will. Elizabeth is possessive of George to the point that she plots to stab her husband Tom when he encourages their son to grow up and be a man. Her only other close relationship is Doctor Reefy, with whom she develops a deep connection that nearly blossoms into a romantic affair. Elizabeth succumbs to her illness and dies when George is eighteen years old. Elizabeth’s death has a profound impact on George and pushes him to gain independence and leave Winesburg behind for a more meaningful life.

Elizabeth Willard Quotes in Winesburg, Ohio

The Winesburg, Ohio quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth Willard or refer to Elizabeth Willard. 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.
3. Paper Pills Quotes

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:
4. Mother Quotes

The hotel was continually losing patronage because of its shabbiness and she thought of herself as also shabby. Her own room was in an obscure corner and when she felt able to work she voluntarily worked among the beds, preferring the labor that could be done when the guests were abroad seeking trade among the merchants of Winesburg.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), George Willard, Elizabeth Willard, Tom Willard
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

George Willard had a habit of talking aloud to himself and to hear him doing so had always given his mother a peculiar pleasure. The habit in him, she felt, strengthened the secret bond that existed between them. A thousand times she had whispered to herself of the matter. “He is groping about, trying to find himself,” she thought. “He is not a dull clod, all words and smartness. Within him there is a secret something that is striving to grow. It is the thing I let be killed in myself.”

Related Characters: Elizabeth Willard (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), George Willard
Page Number: 23
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:
24. Sophistication Quotes

The eighteen years he has lived seem but a moment, a breathing space in the long march of humanity. Already he hears death calling. With all his heart he wants to come close to some other human, touch someone with his hands, be touched by the hand of another. If he prefers that the other be a woman, that is because he believes a woman will be gentle, that she will understand. He wants, most of all, understanding.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), George Willard, Elizabeth Willard, Helen White
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:
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Elizabeth Willard Character Timeline in Winesburg, Ohio

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth Willard appears in Winesburg, Ohio. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
4. Mother
Alienation Theme Icon
...the proprietor of the New Willard House hotel that had originally belonged to his wife Elizabeth Willard’s father. Elizabeth Willard is often ill and spends her days drifting around the hotel,... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Elizabeth believes that she and her son George share a deep bond, and she wants to... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Elizabeth, who has been ill for several days, is worried that George hasn’t visited her. She... (full context)
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
On the way back to her bedroom, Elizabeth realizes that George had not been speaking to himself, but to Tom. She overhears a... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Before she married Tom, Elizabeth was a restless young girl who longed to join one of the theater companies that... (full context)
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
After deciding that she is going to stab Tom, Elizabeth imagines a theatrical vision of the murder and decides that she must look beautiful when... (full context)
23. Death
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...Company store that is spacious but full of miscellaneous clutter. Around this time, George’s mother Elizabeth Willard begins to go see Reefy. While the visits usually concern her poor health, occasionally... (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... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Before Elizabeth married George’s father Tom Willard, she was a free spirit who had many adventures and... (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... (full context)
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Elizabeth tells Doctor Reefy about an incident that happened soon after her marriage when she desperately... (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... (full context)
24. Sophistication
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Grief Theme Icon
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...someone else could understand the confusion he has experienced in the aftermath of his mother Elizabeth’s death. George is lost in introspective thought and feels himself crossing “the line into manhood,”... (full context)