Now certainly, there’s something of that dream that’s real, but it wasn’t Sherwood Anderson’s point of view. Drawing on his own experience, he depicted his Ohio small town as a stifling place where people lived sad and frustrated lives that sometimes drove them to madness. Winesburg, Ohio, in Anderson’s stories, is a place of little human community, hard drinking and violence burning under the surface.
It doesn’t make for a happy portrait of life in small-town Ohio. We talked with Ralph Rodgers of the Clyde Heritage League who told us that the town wasn’t pleased with the book when it first came out. In fact, he said, it was banned in the community—even the library wouldn’t carry it. The reason was that the characters in Sherwood Anderson’s novel bore a striking resemblance to people in that community.
But by now, Mr. Rodgers assured us, Clyde has reconciled with its prodigal son, despite the tales that he told. Signs throughout the community proclaim that this is the site of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. It is one of the two claims the town makes to fame. The other: that it’s the “washing machine capital of the world.”
Winesburg, Ohio, the book, concludes with the main character, George Willard, leaving his home community and setting off on his own. It’s an ending that coincided with Sherwood Anderson’s life and with countless other young people who grew up in small Ohio towns.