Winesburg, Ohio Study Guide

Winesburg, Ohio Study Guide

Original title:
Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life

Winesburg, Ohio is quite a difficult work to read, because, at first glance, its short stories are connected to each other only through some random characters. But the broader picture shows that the story can become whole even without the single plotline going through every short story. They are the pieces of human lives, sad, funny, tragic or romantic. Any story is deliberately taken out of the general context, showing to the readers only one episode of life and letting us wonder about the rest of the biographies of the characters in it. We rejoice when later we meet the same people again as side characters of someone’s else story. It is almost like meeting an old acquaintance in the crowd of strangers.

Reading through the book, we start, if not loving but at least understanding the town of Winesburg, Ohio. Its people become something of distant relatives we are waiting to hear from. But every story returns us to the one united theme: loneliness and hopelessness. The more we read the book the more we feel that the grim and bleak atmosphere of the town dominates the people’s fates. We hope that something will end happily at the beginning, but soon we get used to the idea that nothing ever can end without causing suffering to someone. The ending, featuring the key character, who glues together all the “Book of Grotesque” (the in-setting name of the book) feels like a bittersweet liberation from this loneliness and cycle of suffering. But yet, we still feel pity for Winesburg, leaving it with the feeling that we would never stop caring about its inhabitants - briefly, like about people we lived with for years, but long ago.

Despite the unconventional narrative style, Winesburg, Ohio is one of the classical pieces of American literature that was immediately and warmly accepted by the audience. It demands all the attention of the reader can pay to not get lost in the tangled relationships of the locals and absence of any chronology. But if you are ready to dive deep into the life of the seemingly quiet Winesburg, you are welcome to start.

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