Five Life Lessons Learned from Winesburg, Ohio

Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio is a classic novel that embodies the short story cycle. A short story cycle, according to Forrest Ingram in Representative Short Story Cycles of the Twentieth Century, is “a set of stories linked to each other in such a way as to maintain a balance between the individuality of each of the stories, and the necessities of the larger unit.”

In simple terms, a short story cycle is a bunch of smaller stories combined into one. Sherwood Anderson composed Winesburg, Ohio from twenty-five short stories.

Each of these short stories are connected to each other in two ways: one, each of them takes place in the fictional town of Winesburg, Ohio; and two, George Willard is the only character that makes a reappearance in each short story.

Winesburg, Ohio is a book about life and the complexity of human nature. It’s about secrets and dreams, the truths we manifest and the people who try to hold us back from pursuing our aspirations. It’s about learning how to see the beauty in flaws.

The lessons learned in Winesburg, Ohio are endless. VALLEY picked a few of our favorite quotes from the book and the lessons learned from them.

1. “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.”

This quote is found in the short story “The Book of Grotesques” in Winesburg, Ohio. In this first short story, Anderson expresses thoughts on how truths came into being. In the beginning of the world there were thoughts but no truths. Each truth that was composed was pulled from a series of vague thoughts. Society made the truths as we evolved.

2. “You must shut your ears to the roaring of the voices.”

This quote is as deep as the ocean. To shut our ears to the roaring of the voices is to block out the negativity and truths that you have been told. It is to dream with no limits despite what anyone tells you.

3. “Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.”

In the short story “Paper Pills,” Anderson introduces the character, Doctor Reefy. Doctor Reefy is an old, peculiar man who married a tall, beautiful woman. Everyone in the town wondered why the girl married Dr. Reefy, but this example shows that only the few who choose to see past a fair face experience the true beauty of the soul.

4. “He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.”

We never know what is going to happen next in life. No matter if we have a plan or not, destiny lies in fate and uncertainty rules the playing field.

5. “One shudders at the thought of the meaningless of life while at the same instant, and if the people of the town are his people, one loves life so intensely that tears come into the eyes.”

Each of us grew up in a hometown. A town that has its quirks, ones that you know like the back of your hand. We are raised in these towns not only by our families, but by the people among the community. They help shape you into who you become. When we leave our hometowns behind, the people in them should support and encourage us and our future endeavors. They should hold pride in you, not hold you back. So when we muster the courage to go out in this world and leave our past behind, we must remember those who gave us confidence from the beginning. For those are our people, and to do what we individually love with endless support from our roots is to love life with a full heart.

If you’re looking for a good read, Winesburg, Ohio may just be the book for you. You can either take VALLEY’s word for it or simply read it, because to read is to feed the soul.