December 18, 2018
by Benjamin Boczulak
Yes, Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson is by far my favorite book of all time. Winesburg Ohio is written to be a collection of short stories told from the perspective of George Willard, a young reporter living in the fictional town of Winesburg, Ohio (the namesake of the book). Each chapter of the book tells its own unique story, about a different people in the town, and George Willard serves as a bridge between all the different and inimitable stories.
The book was released in 1919 when realism and modernism were key and influential literary movements. The book gives literal and deep psychological insights into human behavior and patterns in small communities, and for this reason, the book has stood the test of time.
Anderson writes in a style that is hard to describe and is certainly very modern but has not been replicated well by anyone else in the modern era. Anderson has the unique ability to paint a grim and despair view of the world, yet while injecting a small glimmer of hope and future resolution. It is a style that I have yet to see in many other writers, which surprises me because this gives Anderson the ability to reflect to his readers a very accurate depiction of the world. For the most part, life is sad. However, there exists a persistent drive and hope of resolution and Anderson repeatedly captures this feeling in his writing. This ability to relate and to imitate human emotion is, in my opinion, makes Winesburg Ohio one of the greatest books ever written.
There are many great quotable moments in the novel, these quotes mainly come from the end of the chapters when often the conflict is “resolved” and there is some moral to the story. However, the true power of the quotes come from understanding and reading the story. However, I will give you a taste of one of my favorite quotes from the book: “Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy”. This quote is spoken by a random man in a park to Tom Hard and his daughter. The man has obviously had some hardships in his life and is trying to spread his wisdom in hope that no one else will repeat the mistakes that he had made. The Tom Hard’s daughter takes this advice very literally and asks that she be called Tandy by her father. This scene in a way embodies one of the key elements of the novel and that is the way that the novel embraces ambiguity. We know very little about the identity of the man. Yet, we do know that he is looking for love and describes his perfect woman as someone who has struggled and has been defeated, but this defeat creates a new quality of hope and perseverance, know as “Tandy”. The man encourages Tom Hard’s daughter to “Be Tandy”. This whole situation is very gloomy and sad. The image of a drunken man spewing advice to strangers is not at all picture perfect. Yet, there exists some odd sense of hope that everything will be okay. This is the strange and natural combination of sorrow and optimism that Winesburg Ohio demonstrates.
I encourage all with a few spare hours to at least read parts of Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. It is a book that changed my perspective on life and human behavior and has a unique writing style that has yet to be replicated by a modern author. You can find the book available as an eBook download for free on archive.org.