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About Us. There are some writers one should never return to. But now, in the fullness of age, when asked to say a few introductory words about Anderson and his work, I have again fallen under the spell of Winesburg, Ohio, again responded to the half-spoken desires, the flickers of longing that spot its pages. Naturally, I now have some changes of response: a few of the stories no longer haunt me as once they did, but the long story "Godliness," which years ago I considered a failure, I now see as a quaintly effective account of the way religious fanaticism and material acquisitiveness can become intertwined in American experience.

Sherwood Anderson was born in Ohio in His childhood and youth in Clyde, a town with perhaps three thousand souls, were scarred by bouts of poverty, but he also knew some of the pleasures of pre-industrial American society. The country was then experiencing what he would later call "a sudden and almost universal turning of men from the old handicrafts towards our modern life of machines. Winesburg, Ohio 4 and a strong belief in "progress," Young Sherwood, known as "Jobby"--the boy always ready to work--showed the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that Clyde respected: folks expected him to become a "go-getter," And for a time he did.

Moving to Chicago in his early twenties, he worked in an advertising agency where he proved adept at turning out copy. Next year a bigger house; and after that, presumably, a country estate. And then, in , occurred the great turning point in Anderson s life. Plainly put, he suffered a nervous breakdown, though in his memoirs he would elevate this into a moment of liberation in which he abandoned the sterility of commerce and turned to the rewards of literature.

Nor was this, I believe, merely a deception on Anderson s part, since the breakdown painful as it surely was, did help precipitate a basic change in his life. At the age of 36, he left behind his business and moved to Chicago, becoming one of the rebellious writers and cultural bohemians in the group that has since come to be called the "Chicago Renaissance. It was in the freedom of the city, in its readiness to put up with deviant styles of life, that Anderson found the strength to settle accounts with--but also to release his affection for--the world of small-town America.

The dream of an unconditional personal freedom, that hazy American version of utopia, would remain central throughout Anderson s life and work. It was an inspiration; it was a delusion. German adept: Erfahren, Eingeweihter, Meister, bewandert, geschickt, gewiegt, kundig, Adept. Sherwood Anderson 5 They show patches of talent but also a crudity of thought and unsteadiness of language. No one reading these novels was likely to suppose that its author could soon produce anything as remarkable as Winesburg, Ohio. Occasionally there occurs in a writer s career a sudden, almost mysterious leap of talent, beyond explanation, perhaps beyond any need for explanation.

The book was an immediate critical success, and soon Anderson was being ranked as a significant literary figure. But Anderson s moment of glory was brief, no more than a decade, and sadly, the remaining years until his death in were marked by a sharp decline in his literary standing. Somehow, except for an occasional story like the haunting "Death in the Woods," he was unable to repeat or surpass his early success. No sooner did Winesburg, Ohio make its appearance than a number of critical labels were fixed on it: the revolt against the village, the espousal of sexual freedom, the deepening of American realism.

Such tags may once have had their point, but by now they seem dated and stale. The revolt against the village about which Anderson was always ambivalent has faded into history.

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The espousal of sexual freedom would soon be exceeded in boldness by other writers. And as for the effort to place Winesburg, Ohio in a tradition of American realism, that now seems dubious. Only rarely is the object of Anderson s stories social verisimilitude, or the "photographing" of familiar appearances, in the sense, say, that one might use to describe a novel by Theodore Dreiser or Sinclair Lewis.

Only occasionally, and then with a very light touch, does Anderson try to fill out the social arrangements of his imaginary town--although the fact that his stories are set in a mid-American German ambivalent: zweideutig. You might even say, with only slight overstatement, that what Anderson is doing in Winesburg, Ohio could be described as "anti-realistic," fictions notable less for precise locale and social detail than for a highly personal, even strange vision of American life. Narrow, intense, almost claustrophobic, the result is a book about extreme states of being, the collapse of men and women who have lost their psychic bearings and now hover, at best tolerated, at the edge of the little community in which they live.

It would be a gross mistake, though not one likely to occur by now, if we were to take Winesburg, Ohio as a social photograph of "the typical small town" whatever that might be. Anderson evokes a depressed landscape in which lost souls wander about; they make their flitting appearances mostly in the darkness of night, these stumps and shades of humanity. This vision has its truth, and at its best it is a terrible if narrow truth-but it is itself also grotesque, with the tone of the authorial voice and the mode of composition forming muted signals of the book s content.

Figures like Dr. Parcival, Kate Swift, and Wash Williams are not, nor are they meant to be, "fullyrounded" characters such as we can expect in realistic fiction; they are the shards of life, glimpsed for a moment, the debris of suffering and defeat. In each story one of them emerges, shyly or with a false assertiveness, trying to reach out to companionship and love, driven almost mad by the search for human connection. In the economy of Winesburg these grotesques matter less in their own right than as agents or symptoms of that "indefinable hunger" for meaning which is Anderson s preoccupation.

Brushing against one another, passing one another in the streets or the fields, they see bodies and hear voices, but it does not really matter--they are disconnected, psychically lost. Is this due to the particular circumstances of small-town America as Anderson saw it at the turn of the century? Or does he feel that he is sketching an inescapable human condition which makes all of us bear the burden of loneliness? Alice Hindman in the story "Adventure" turns her face to the wall and tries "to force herself to face the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg.

Such German assertiveness: Anmassung. Sherwood Anderson 7 impressions have been put in more general terms in Anderson s only successful novel, Poor White: All men lead their lives behind a wall of misunderstanding they have themselves built, and most men die in silence and unnoticed behind the walls. Word of his activities is carried over the walls. These "walls" of misunderstanding are only seldom due to physical deformities Wing Biddlebaum in "Hands" or oppressive social arrangements Kate Swift in "The Teacher.

Nor are these people, the grotesques, simply to be pitied and dismissed; at some point in their lives they have known desire, have dreamt of ambition, have hoped for friendship. In all of them there was once something sweet, "like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards in Winesburg.

Winesburg, Ohio registers the losses inescapable to life, and it does so with a deep fraternal sadness, a sympathy casting a mild glow over the entire book. They want, these Winesburg grotesques, to unpack their hearts, to release emotions buried and festering. Wash Williams tries to explain his eccentricity but hardly can; Louise Bentley "tried to talk but could say nothing"; Enoch Robinson retreats to a fantasy world, inventing "his own people to whom he German adrift: treibend. Winesburg, Ohio 8 could really talk and to whom he explained the things he had been unable to explain to living people.

Perhaps the central Winesburg story, tracing the basic movements of the book, is "Paper Pills," in which the old Doctor Reefy sits "in his empty office close by a window that was covered with cobwebs," writes down some thoughts on slips of paper "pyramids of truth," he calls them and then stuffs them into his pockets where they "become round hard balls" soon to be discarded.

What Dr. Reefy s "truths" may be we never know; Anderson simply persuades us that to this lonely old man they are utterly precious and thereby incommunicable, forming a kind of blurred moral signature. Hesitantly, fearfully, or with a sputtering incoherent rage, they approach him, pleading that he listen to their stories in the hope that perhaps they can find some sort of renewal in his youthful voice. Upon this sensitive and fragile boy they pour out their desires and frustrations.

Parcival hopes that George Willard "will write the book I may never get written," and for Enoch Robinson, the boy represents "the youthful sadness, young man s sadness, the sadness of a growing boy in a village at the year s end which may open the lips of the old man. The burden this places on the boy is more than he can bear. He listens to them attentively, he is sympathetic to their complaints, but finally he is too absorbed in his own dreams.

Sherwood Anderson 9 this "difference" that keeps him from responding as warmly as they want. It is hardly the boy s fault; it is simply in the nature of things. For George Willard, the grotesques form a moment in his education; for the grotesques, their encounters with George Willard come to seem like a stamp of hopelessness. In actuality, Anderson developed an artful style in which, following Mark Twain and preceding Ernest Hemingway, he tried to use American speech as the base of a tensed rhythmic prose that has an economy and a shapeliness seldom found in ordinary speech or even oral narration.

What Anderson employs here is a stylized version of the American language, sometimes rising to quite formal rhetorical patterns and sometimes sinking to a self-conscious mannerism. But at its best, Anderson s prose style in Winesburg, Ohio is a supple instrument, yielding that "low fine music" which he admired so much in the stories of Turgenev. One of the worst fates that can befall a writer is that of self-imitation: the effort later in life, often desperate, to recapture the tones and themes of youthful beginnings.

Something of the sort happened with Anderson s later writings. Most critics and readers grew impatient with the work he did after, say, or ; they felt he was constantly repeating his gestures of emotional "groping"what he had called in Winesburg, Ohio the "indefinable hunger" that prods and torments people. It became the critical fashion to see Anderson s "gropings" as a sign of delayed adolescence, a failure to develop as a writer.

Once he wrote a chilling reply to those who dismissed him in this way: "I don t think it matters much, all this calling a man a muddler, a groper, etc. The very man who throws such words as these knows in his heart that he is also facing a wall. For what characterized it was not so much "groping" as the imitation of "groping," the self-caricature of a writer who feels driven back upon an earlier self that is, alas, no longer available. Winesburg, Ohio 10 But Winesburg, Ohio remains a vital work, fresh and authentic.

Most of its stories are composed in a minor key, a tone of subdued pathos--pathos marking both the nature and limit of Anderson s talent.


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He spoke of himself as a "minor writer. The single best story in Winesburg, Ohio is, I think, "The Untold Lie," in which the urgency of choice becomes an outer sign of a tragic element in the human condition. And in Anderson s single greatest story, "The Egg," which appeared a few years after Winesburg, Ohio, he succeeded in bringing together a surface of farce with an undertone of tragedy. Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner both praised him as a writer who brought a new tremor of feeling, a new sense of introspectiveness to the American short story.

As Faulkner put it, Anderson s "was the fumbling for exactitude, the exact word and phrase within the limited scope of a vocabulary controlled and even repressed by what was in him almost a fetish of simplicity. Writing about the Elizabethan playwright John Ford, the poet Algernon Swinburne once said: "If he touches you once he takes you, and what he takes he keeps hold of; his work becomes part of your thought and parcel of your spiritual furniture forever. German awoke: erwachte, geweckt. The windows of the house in which he lived were high and he wanted to look at the trees when he awoke in the morning.

A carpenter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a level with the window. The carpenter, who had been a soldier in the Civil War, came into the writer s room and sat down to talk of building a platform for the purpose of raising the bed. The writer had cigars lying about and the carpenter smoked. For a time the two men talked of the raising of the bed and then they talked of other things. The soldier got on the subject of the war. The writer, in fact, led him to that subject. The carpenter had once been a prisoner in Andersonville prison and had lost a brother.

The brother had died of starvation, and whenever the carpenter got upon that subject he cried. He, like the old writer, had a white mustache, and when he cried he puckered up his lips and the mustache bobbed up and down. The weeping old man with the cigar in his mouth was ludicrous. The plan the writer had for the raising of his bed was forgotten and later the carpenter did it in his own way and the writer, who was past sixty, had to help himself with a chair when he went to bed at night.

German bobbed: stutzte. Winesburg, Ohio 14 In his bed the writer rolled over on his side and lay quite still. For years he had been beset with notions concerning his heart. He was a hard smoker and his heart fluttered. The idea had got into his mind that he would some time die unexpectedly and always when he got into bed he thought of that. It did not alarm him. The effect in fact was quite a special thing and not easily explained. It made him more alive, there in bed, than at any other time.

Perfectly still he lay and his body was old and not of much use any more, but something inside him was altogether young. He was like a pregnant woman, only that the thing inside him was not a baby but a youth. No, it wasn t a youth, it was a woman, young, and wearing a coat of mail like a knight. It is absurd, you see, to try to tell what was inside the old writer as he lay on his high bed and listened to the fluttering of his heart. The thing to get at is what the writer, or the young thing within the writer, was thinking about.

He had once been quite handsome and a number of women had been in love with him. And then, of course, he had known people, many people, known them in a peculiarly intimate way that was different from the way in which you and I know people. At least that is what the writer thought and the thought pleased him.

Why quarrel with an old man concerning his thoughts? In the bed the writer had a dream that was not a dream. As he grew somewhat sleepy but was still conscious, figures began to appear before his eyes. He imagined the young indescribable thing within himself was driving a long procession of figures before his eyes. You see the interest in all this lies in the figures that went before the eyes of the writer. They were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques. The grotesques were not all horrible.

Some were amusing, some almost beautiful, and one, a woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man by her grotesqueness. When she passed he made a noise like a small dog whimpering. Sherwood Anderson 15 Had you come into the room you might have supposed the old man had unpleasant dreams or perhaps indigestion.

Some one of the grotesques had made a deep impression on his mind and he wanted to describe it. At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called "The Book of the Grotesque. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before. The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this: That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth.

Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful. The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful. And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

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. Winesburg, Ohio 16 You can see for yourself how the old man, who had spent all of his life writing and was filled with words, would write hundreds of pages concerning this matter. The subject would become so big in his mind that he himself would be in danger of becoming a grotesque.

He didn t, I suppose, for the same reason that he never published the book. It was the young thing inside him that saved the old man. Across a long field that had been seeded for clover but that had produced only a dense crop of yellow mustard weeds, he could see the public highway along which went a wagon filled with berry pickers returning from the fields. The berry pickers, youths and maidens, laughed and shouted boisterously. A boy clad in a blue shirt leaped from the wagon and attempted to drag after him one of the maidens, who screamed and protested shrilly.

The feet of the boy in the road kicked up a cloud of dust that floated across the face of the departing sun. Over the long field came a thin girlish voice. Wing Biddlebaum, forever frightened and beset by a ghostly band of doubts, did not think of himself as in any way a part of the life of the town where he had lived for twenty years. Among all the people of Winesburg but one had come close to him.

George Willard was the reporter on the Winesburg Eagle and sometimes in the evenings he walked out along the highway to Wing Biddlebaum s house. Now as the old German arranging: anordnend, einrichtend, ordnend, veranstaltend, Arrangierend, Vereinbarend, aufstellend, Absprechend. Winesburg, Ohio 18 man walked up and down on the veranda, his hands moving nervously about, he was hoping that George Willard would come and spend the evening with him.

After the wagon containing the berry pickers had passed, he went across the field through the tall mustard weeds and climbing a rail fence peered anxiously along the road to the town. For a moment he stood thus, rubbing his hands together and looking up and down the road, and then, fear overcoming him, ran back to walk again upon the porch on his own house.

With the young reporter at his side, he ventured in the light of day into Main Street or strode up and down on the rickety front porch of his own house, talking excitedly. The voice that had been low and trembling became shrill and loud. The bent figure straightened. With a kind of wriggle, like a fish returned to the brook by the fisherman, Biddlebaum the silent began to talk, striving to put into words the ideas that had been accumulated by his mind during long years of silence.

Wing Biddlebaum talked much with his hands. The slender expressive fingers, forever active, forever striving to conceal themselves in his pockets or behind his back, came forth and became the piston rods of his machinery of expression. The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands. Their restless activity, like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given him his name.

Some obscure poet of the town had thought of it. The hands alarmed their owner. He wanted to keep them hidden away and looked with amazement at the quiet inexpressive hands of other men who worked beside him in the fields, or passed, driving sleepy teams on country roads. When he talked to George Willard, Wing Biddlebaum closed his fists and beat with them upon a table or on the walls of his house.

The action made him more comfortable. Sherwood Anderson 19 in the fields, he sought out a stump or the top board of a fence and with his hands pounding busily talked with renewed ease. Sympathetically set forth it would tap many strange, beautiful qualities in obscure men. It is a job for a poet. In Winesburg the hands had attracted attention merely because of their activity. With them Wing Biddlebaum had picked as high as a hundred and forty quarts of strawberries in a day. They became his distinguishing feature, the source of his fame.

Also they made more grotesque an already grotesque and elusive individuality. Winesburg was proud of the hands of Wing Biddlebaum in the same spirit in which it was proud of Banker White s new stone house and Wesley Moyer s bay stallion, Tony Tip, that had won the two-fifteen trot at the fall races in Cleveland. As for George Willard, he had many times wanted to ask about the hands.

At times an almost overwhelming curiosity had taken hold of him. He felt that there must be a reason for their strange activity and their inclination to keep hidden away and only a growing respect for Wing Biddlebaum kept him from blurting out the questions that were often in his mind. Once he had been on the point of asking. The two were walking in the fields on a summer afternoon and had stopped to sit upon a grassy bank. All afternoon Wing Biddlebaum had talked as one inspired. By a fence he had stopped and beating like a giant woodpecker upon the top board had shouted at George Willard, condemning his tendency to be too much influenced by the people about him, "You are destroying yourself," he cried.

You want to be like others in town here. You hear them talk and you try to imitate them. His voice became soft and reminiscent, and with a sigh of contentment he launched into a long rambling talk, speaking as one lost in a dream. Out of the dream Wing Biddlebaum made a picture for George Willard. In the picture men lived again in a kind of pastoral golden age. Winesburg, Ohio 20 horses. In crowds the young men came to gather about the feet of an old man who sat beneath a tree in a tiny garden and who talked to them.

For once he forgot the hands. Slowly they stole forth and lay upon George Willard s shoulders. Something new and bold came into the voice that talked. From this time on you must shut your ears to the roaring of the voices. His eyes glowed. Again he raised the hands to caress the boy and then a look of horror swept over his face. With a convulsive movement of his body, Wing Biddlebaum sprang to his feet and thrust his hands deep into his trousers pockets.

Tears came to his eyes. I can talk no more with you," he said nervously. Without looking back, the old man had hurried down the hillside and across a meadow, leaving George Willard perplexed and frightened upon the grassy slope. With a shiver of dread the boy arose and went along the road toward town. His hands have something to do with his fear of me and of everyone. Let us look briefly into the story of the hands.

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Perhaps our talking of them will arouse the poet who will tell the hidden wonder story of the influence for which the hands were but fluttering pennants of promise. In his youth Wing Biddlebaum had been a school teacher in a town in Pennsylvania. He was not then known as Wing Biddlebaum, but went by the less euphonic name of Adolph Myers. As Adolph Myers he was much loved by the boys of his school. Adolph Myers was meant by nature to be a teacher of youth.

Sherwood Anderson 21 lovable weakness. In their feeling for the boys under their charge such men are not unlike the finer sort of women in their love of men. It needs the poet there. With the boys of his school, Adolph Myers had walked in the evening or had sat talking until dusk upon the schoolhouse steps lost in a kind of dream.

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Here and there went his hands, caressing the shoulders of the boys, playing about the tousled heads. As he talked his voice became soft and musical. There was a caress in that also. In a way the voice and the hands, the stroking of the shoulders and the touching of the hair were a part of the schoolmaster s effort to carry a dream into the young minds. By the caress that was in his fingers he expressed himself. He was one of those men in whom the force that creates life is diffused, not centralized. Under the caress of his hands doubt and disbelief went out of the minds of the boys and they began also to dream.

And then the tragedy. A half-witted boy of the school became enamored of the young master. In his bed at night he imagined unspeakable things and in the morning went forth to tell his dreams as facts. Strange, hideous accusations fell from his loose hung lips. Through the Pennsylvania town went a shiver. Hidden, shadowy doubts that had been in men s minds concerning Adolph Myers were galvanized into beliefs. The tragedy did not linger. Trembling lads were jerked out of bed and questioned. One afternoon a man of the town, Henry Bradford, who kept a saloon, came to the schoolhouse door.

Calling Adolph Myers into the school yard he began to beat him with his fists. As his hard knuckles beat down into the frightened face of the schoolmaster, his wrath became more and more terrible. Screaming with dismay, the children ran here and there like disturbed insects. Adolph Myers was driven from the Pennsylvania town in the night. With lanterns in their hands a dozen men came to the door of the house where he German caressing: liebkosend, einschmeichelnd.

Winesburg, Ohio 22 lived alone and commanded that he dress and come forth. It was raining and one of the men had a rope in his hands. They had intended to hang the schoolmaster, but something in his figure, so small, white, and pitiful, touched their hearts and they let him escape. As he ran away into the darkness they repented of their weakness and ran after him, swearing and throwing sticks and great balls of soft mud at the figure that screamed and ran faster and faster into the darkness.

He was but forty but looked sixty-five. The name of Biddlebaum he got from a box of goods seen at a freight station as he hurried through an eastern Ohio town. He had an aunt in Winesburg, a black-toothed old woman who raised chickens, and with her he lived until she died. He had been ill for a year after the experience in Pennsylvania, and after his recovery worked as a day laborer in the fields, going timidly about and striving to conceal his hands. Although he did not understand what had happened he felt that the hands must be to blame. Again and again the fathers of the boys had talked of the hands.

Upon the veranda of his house by the ravine, Wing Biddlebaum continued to walk up and down until the sun had disappeared and the road beyond the field was lost in the grey shadows. Going into his house he cut slices of bread and spread honey upon them. When the rumble of the evening train that took away the express cars loaded with the day s harvest of berries had passed and restored the silence of the summer night, he went again to walk upon the veranda. In the darkness he could not see the hands and they became quiet.

Although he still hungered for the presence of the boy, who was the medium through which he expressed his love of man, the hunger became again a part of his loneliness and his waiting. Lighting a lamp, Wing Biddlebaum washed the few dishes soiled by his simple meal and, setting up a folding cot by the screen door that led to the porch, prepared to undress for the night. A few stray white bread crumbs lay on the cleanly washed floor by the table; putting the lamp upon a low stool he German berries: Beeren.

In the dense blotch of light beneath the table, the kneeling figure looked like a priest engaged in some service of his church. The nervous expressive fingers, flashing in and out of the light, might well have been mistaken for the fingers of the devotee going swiftly through decade after decade of his rosary. German blotch: Fleck. Long before the time during which we will know him, he was a doctor and drove a jaded white horse from house to house through the streets of Winesburg.

Later he married a girl who had money. She had been left a large fertile farm when her father died. The girl was quiet, tall, and dark, and to many people she seemed very beautiful. Everyone in Winesburg wondered why she married the doctor.

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Within a year after the marriage she died. The knuckles of the doctor s hands were extraordinarily large. When the hands were closed they looked like clusters of unpainted wooden balls as large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods. He smoked a cob pipe and after his wife s death sat all day in his empty office close by a window that was covered with cobwebs. He never opened the window. Once on a hot day in August he tried but found it stuck fast and after that he forgot all about it. Winesburg had forgotten the old man, but in Doctor Reefy there were the seeds of something very fine.

Alone in his musty office in the Heffner Block above the Paris Dry Goods Company s store, he worked ceaselessly, building up something that he himself destroyed. Little pyramids of truth he erected and after erecting knocked them down again that he might have the truths to erect other pyramids. Sherwood Anderson 25 Doctor Reefy was a tall man who had worn one suit of clothes for ten years. It was frayed at the sleeves and little holes had appeared at the knees and elbows.

In the office he wore also a linen duster with huge pockets into which he continually stuffed scraps of paper. After some weeks the scraps of paper became little hard round balls, and when the pockets were filled he dumped them out upon the floor. For ten years he had but one friend, another old man named John Spaniard who owned a tree nursery. Sometimes, in a playful mood, old Doctor Reefy took from his pockets a handful of the paper balls and threw them at the nursery man.

It is delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards of Winesburg. In the fall one walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with frost underfoot. The apples have been taken from the trees by the pickers.


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They have been put in barrels and shipped to the cities where they will be eaten in apartments that are filled with books, magazines, furniture, and people. On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy s hands. One nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them.

Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples. The girl and Doctor Reefy began their courtship on a summer afternoon. He was forty-five then and already he had begun the practice of filling his pockets with the scraps of paper that became hard balls and were thrown away. The habit had been formed as he sat in his buggy behind the jaded white horse and went slowly along country roads. On the papers were written thoughts, ends of thoughts, beginnings of thoughts. One by one the mind of Doctor Reefy had made the thoughts. Out of many of them he formed a truth that arose gigantic in his mind.

The truth clouded the German apartments: Wohnungen, Appartements.

Winesburg, Ohio 26 world. It became terrible and then faded away and the little thoughts began again. She was in that condition because of a series of circumstances also curious. The death of her father and mother and the rich acres of land that had come down to her had set a train of suitors on her heels. For two years she saw suitors almost every evening. Except two they were all alike. They talked to her of passion and there was a strained eager quality in their voices and in their eyes when they looked at her. The two who were different were much unlike each other. One of them, a slender young man with white hands, the son of a jeweler in Winesburg, talked continually of virginity.

When he was with her he was never off the subject. The other, a black-haired boy with large ears, said nothing at all but always managed to get her into the darkness, where he began to kiss her. For a time the tall dark girl thought she would marry the jeweler s son. For hours she sat in silence listening as he talked to her and then she began to be afraid of something. Beneath his talk of virginity she began to think there was a lust greater than in all the others. At times it seemed to her that as he talked he was holding her body in his hands.

She imagined him turning it slowly about in the white hands and staring at it. At night she dreamed that he had bitten into her body and that his jaws were dripping. She had the dream three times, then she became in the family way to the one who said nothing at all but who in the moment of his passion actually did bite her shoulder so that for days the marks of his teeth showed.

After the tall dark girl came to know Doctor Reefy it seemed to her that she never wanted to leave him again. She went into his office one morning and without her saying anything he seemed to know what had happened to her. In the office of the doctor there was a woman, the wife of the man who kept the bookstore in Winesburg.

Sherwood Anderson 27 and groaned. Her husband was with her and when the tooth was taken out they both screamed and blood ran down on the woman s white dress. The tall dark girl did not pay any attention. When the woman and the man had gone the doctor smiled. The condition that had brought her to him passed in an illness, but she was like one who has discovered the sweetness of the twisted apples, she could not get her mind fixed again upon the round perfect fruit that is eaten in the city apartments. In the fall after the beginning of her acquaintanceship with him she married Doctor Reefy and in the following spring she died.

During the winter he read to her all of the odds and ends of thoughts he had scribbled on the bits of paper. After he had read them he laughed and stuffed them away in his pockets to become round hard balls. German acquaintanceship: Bekanntschaft. Although she was but forty-five, some obscure disease had taken the fire out of her figure.

Listlessly she went about the disorderly old hotel looking at the faded wall-paper and the ragged carpets and, when she was able to be about, doing the work of a chambermaid among beds soiled by the slumbers of fat traveling men. Her husband, Tom Willard, a slender, graceful man with square shoulders, a quick military step, and a black mustache trained to turn sharply up at the ends, tried to put the wife out of his mind.

The presence of the tall ghostly figure, moving slowly through the halls, he took as a reproach to himself. When he thought of her he grew angry and swore. The hotel was unprofitable and forever on the edge of failure and he wished himself out of it. He thought of the old house and the woman who lived there with him as things defeated and done for.

The hotel in which he had begun life so hopefully was now a mere ghost of what a hotel should be. As he went spruce and business-like through the streets of Winesburg, he sometimes stopped and turned quickly about as though fearing that the spirit of the hotel and of the woman would follow him even into the streets. Tom Willard had a passion for village politics and for years had been the leading Democrat in a strongly Republican community.

Some day, he told German aimlessly: ziellos. He dreamed of going to Congress and even of becoming governor. Once when a younger member of the party arose at a political conference and began to boast of his faithful service, Tom Willard grew white with fury.

What are you but a boy? Look at what I ve done here! I was a Democrat here in Winesburg when it was a crime to be a Democrat. In the old days they fairly hunted us with guns. In the son s presence she was timid and reserved, but sometimes while he hurried about town intent upon his duties as a reporter, she went into his room and closing the door knelt by a little desk, made of a kitchen table, that sat near a window. In the room by the desk she went through a ceremony that was half a prayer, half a demand, addressed to the skies. In the boyish figure she yearned to see something half forgotten that had once been a part of herself recreated.

The prayer concerned that. Her eyes glowed and she clenched her fists. I demand it. I will pay for it. God may beat me with his fists. I will take any blow that may befall if but this my boy be allowed to express something for us both. The communion between George Willard and his mother was outwardly a formal thing without meaning. When she was ill and sat by the window in her room he sometimes went in the evening to make her a visit. They sat by a window that looked over the roof of a small frame building into Main Street. Winesburg, Ohio 30 bakery.

At the back door of his shop appeared Abner Groff with a stick or an empty milk bottle in his hand. For a long time there was a feud between the baker and a grey cat that belonged to Sylvester West, the druggist. The boy and his mother saw the cat creep into the door of the bakery and presently emerge followed by the baker, who swore and waved his arms about. The baker s eyes were small and red and his black hair and beard were filled with flour dust. Sometimes he was so angry that, although the cat had disappeared, he hurled sticks, bits of broken glass, and even some of the tools of his trade about.

Once he broke a window at the back of Sinning s Hardware Store.


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In the alley the grey cat crouched behind barrels filled with torn paper and broken bottles above which flew a black swarm of flies. Once when she was alone, and after watching a prolonged and ineffectual outburst on the part of the baker, Elizabeth Willard put her head down on her long white hands and wept. After that she did not look along the alleyway any more, but tried to forget the contest between the bearded man and the cat.

It seemed like a rehearsal of her own life, terrible in its vividness. In the evening when the son sat in the room with his mother, the silence made them both feel awkward. Darkness came on and the evening train came in at the station. In the street below feet tramped up and down upon a board sidewalk. In the station yard, after the evening train had gone, there was a heavy silence. Perhaps Skinner Leason, the express agent, moved a truck the length of the station platform.

Over on Main Street sounded a man s voice, laughing. The door of the express office banged. George Willard arose and crossing the room fumbled for the doorknob. Sometimes he knocked against a chair, making it scrape along the floor. By the window sat the sick woman, perfectly still, listless.

Her long hands, white and bloodless, could be seen drooping over the ends of the arms of the chair. You are too much indoors," she said, striving to relieve the embarrassment of the departure. She had been ill in bed for several days and her son had not come to visit her. She was alarmed. The feeble blaze of life that remained in her body was blown into a flame by her anxiety and she crept out of bed, dressed and hurried along the hallway toward her son s room, shaking with exaggerated fears.

As she went along she steadied herself with her hand, slipped along the papered walls of the hall and breathed with difficulty. The air whistled through her teeth. As she hurried forward she thought how foolish she was. 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.

By the door of her son s room the mother knelt upon the floor and listened for some sound from within. When she heard the boy moving about and talking in low tones a smile came to her lips. 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. Within him there is a secret something that is striving to grow. It is the thing I let be killed in myself. She was afraid that the door would open and the boy come upon her. Winesburg, Ohio 32 turn a corner into a second hallway she stopped and bracing herself with her hands waited, thinking to shake off a trembling fit of weakness that had come upon her.

The presence of the boy in the room had made her happy. In her bed, during the long hours alone, the little fears that had visited her had become giants. Now they were all gone. As she stood trembling in the darkness the door of her son s room opened and the boy s father, Tom Willard, stepped out. In the light that steamed out at the door he stood with the knob in his hand and talked. What he said infuriated the woman. Tom Willard was ambitious for his son.

He had always thought of himself as a successful man, although nothing he had ever done had turned out successfully. However, when he was out of sight of the New Willard House and had no fear of coming upon his wife, he swaggered and began to dramatize himself as one of the chief men of the town. He wanted his son to succeed. He it was who had secured for the boy the position on the Winesburg Eagle. Now, with a ring of earnestness in his voice, he was advising concerning some course of conduct. He says you go along for hours not hearing when you are spoken to and acting like a gawky girl.

What ails you? You re not a fool and you re not a woman. You re Tom Willard s son and you ll wake up. I m not afraid. What you say clears things up. If being a newspaper man had put the notion of becoming a writer into your mind that s all right. Only I guess you ll have to wake up to do that too, eh?

The woman in the darkness could hear him laughing and talking with a guest who was striving to wear away a dull evening by dozing in a chair by the office door. She returned to the door of her son s room. The weakness had passed from her body as by a miracle and she stepped boldly along. A thousand German advising: ratend, beratend, raten, Beraten, Ratschlag, Rat.

Sherwood Anderson 33 ideas raced through her head. When she heard the scraping of a chair and the sound of a pen scratching upon paper, she again turned and went back along the hallway to her own room. The determination was the result of long years of quiet and rather ineffectual thinking. There is something threatening my boy and I will ward it off. Although for years she had hated her husband, her hatred had always before been a quite impersonal thing. He had been merely a part of something else that she hated.

Now, and by the few words at the door, he had become the thing personified. In the darkness of her own room she clenched her fists and glared about. Going to a cloth bag that hung on a nail by the wall she took out a long pair of sewing scissors and held them in her hand like a dagger. When I have killed him something will snap within myself and I will die also. It will be a release for all of us. For years she had been what is called "stage-struck" and had paraded through the streets with traveling men guests at her father s hotel, wearing loud clothes and urging them to tell her of life in the cities out of which they had come.

Once she startled the town by putting on men s clothes and riding a bicycle down Main Street. In her own mind the tall dark girl had been in those days much confused. A great restlessness was in her and it expressed itself in two ways. First there was an uneasy desire for change, for some big definite movement to her life. It was this feeling that had turned her mind to the stage.

She dreamed of joining some company and wandering over the world, seeing always new faces and giving something out of herself to all people. Sometimes at night she was quite beside herself with the thought, but when she tried to talk of the matter to the members German dagger: Dolch.

Winesburg, Ohio 34 of the theatrical companies that came to Winesburg and stopped at her father s hotel, she got nowhere. They did not seem to know what she meant, or if she did get something of her passion expressed, they only laughed. Nothing comes of it. Always they seemed to understand and sympathize with her. On the side streets of the village, in the darkness under the trees, they took hold of her hand and she thought that something unexpressed in herself came forth and became a part of an unexpressed something in them.

When that came she felt for a time released and happy. She did not blame the men who walked with her and later she did not blame Tom Willard. It was always the same, beginning with kisses and ending, after strange wild emotions, with peace and then sobbing repentance. When she sobbed she put her hand upon the face of the man and had always the same thought. Even though he were large and bearded she thought he had become suddenly a little boy. She wondered why he did not sob also. In her room, tucked away in a corner of the old Willard House, Elizabeth Willard lighted a lamp and put it on a dressing table that stood by the door.

A thought had come into her mind and she went to a closet and brought out a small square box and set it on the table. The box contained material for makeup and had been left with other things by a theatrical company that had once been stranded in Winesburg. Elizabeth Willard had decided that she would be beautiful. Her hair was still black and there was a great mass of it braided and coiled about her head.

The scene that was to take place in the office below began to grow in her mind. No ghostly worn-out figure should confront Tom Willard, but something quite unexpected and startling. Tall and with dusky cheeks and hair that fell in a mass from her shoulders, a figure should come striding down the stairway before the startled loungers in the hotel office. The figure would be silent--it would be swift and terrible.

As a tigress whose cub had been German braided: flocht. Sherwood Anderson 35 threatened would she appear, coming out of the shadows, stealing noiselessly along and holding the long wicked scissors in her hand. The strength that had been as a miracle in her body left and she half reeled across the floor, clutching at the back of the chair in which she had spent so many long days staring out over the tin roofs into the main street of Winesburg.

In the hallway there was the sound of footsteps and George Willard came in at the door. Sitting in a chair beside his mother he began to talk. An impulse came to her. You will go to the city and make money, eh? It will be better for you, you think, to be a business man, to be brisk and smart and alive? The son shook his head. I don t try. There isn t any use. I don t know what I shall do. I just want to go away and look at people and think. Again, as on the other evenings, they were embarrassed.

After a time the boy tried again to talk. In the room the silence became unbearable to the woman. She wanted to cry out with joy because of the words that had come from the lips of her son, but the expression of joy had become impossible to her. You are too much indoors," she said. German blew: blies blight vereiteln, blies, blasen, wehen. He always wore a dirty white waistcoat out of the pockets of which protruded a number of the kind of black cigars known as stogies. His teeth were black and irregular and there was something strange about his eyes. The lid of the left eye twitched; it fell down and snapped up; it was exactly as though the lid of the eye were a window shade and someone stood inside the doctor s head playing with the cord.

Doctor Parcival had a liking for the boy, George Willard. It began when George had been working for a year on the Winesburg Eagle and the acquaintanceship was entirely a matter of the doctor s own making. In the late afternoon Will Henderson, owner and editor of the Eagle, went over to Tom Willy s saloon. Along an alleyway he went and slipping in at the back door of the saloon began drinking a drink made of a combination of sloe gin and soda water. Will Henderson was a sensualist and had reached the age of forty-five.

He imagined the gin renewed the youth in him. Like most sensualists he enjoyed talking of women, and for an hour he lingered about gossiping with Tom Willy. The saloon keeper was a short, broad-shouldered man with peculiarly marked hands. That flaming kind of birthmark that sometimes paints with red the faces of men and women had touched with red German birthmark: Muttermal. Sherwood Anderson 37 Tom Willy s fingers and the backs of his hands.

As he stood by the bar talking to Will Henderson he rubbed the hands together. As he grew more and more excited the red of his fingers deepened. It was as though the hands had been dipped in blood that had dried and faded. Doctor Parcival appeared immediately after Will Henderson had disappeared. One might have supposed that the doctor had been watching from his office window and had seen the editor going along the alleyway.

Coming in at the front door and finding himself a chair, he lighted one of the stogies and crossing his legs began to talk. He seemed intent upon convincing the boy of the advisability of adopting a line of conduct that he was himself unable to define. It is not an accident and it is not because I do not know as much of medicine as anyone here. I do not want patients. The reason, you see, does not appear on the surface. It lies in fact in my character, which has, if you think about it, many strange turns. Why I want to talk to you of the matter I don t know.

I might keep still and get more credit in your eyes. I have a desire to make you admire me, that s a fact. I don t know why. That s why I talk.