Sherwood Anderson as the Father of Realism
Sherwood Anderson is identified as the "Father of Realism", the master of characterization, and the creator of the epiphany. He broke through the barriers of Classic American Literature and introduced a style that is focused on distinct moments. Although remarkable, many of his stories lack the traditional structure of plot. Instead Anderson states that these single bursts of inspiration are the stories of people, and are therefore to be left untouched upon completion. His crowning achievement, Winesburg, Ohio, is a collection of anecdotes focusing on a town of "grotesques". These tragically hopeless people cannot convey their passion to others. Each has centered his or her life around a profound truth that only he or she is able to recognize; the response the grotesque receives concerning this understanding inevitably leads to their tribulation. Lonely recluses, they continuously struggle with their contained feelings. Anderson portrays moments in which the passion tries to resurface, but no longer has the strength to do so. In essence, these "adventures" are tiny glimpses of failure. The grotesques each represent "a moment, a mood, or a secret that lay deep in Anderson's life and for which he was finding the right words for at last." (4)
The book is Anderson's form of expression, not unlike the hands of the main character in his most acclaimed piece: "Hands". In this story, a little man, Wing Biddlebaum, lives isolated from the town of Winesburg. His solitude is a result of a tragic experience years before. He had been a gifted schoolteacher who motivated young boys with his hands until one young student spread wild rumors about him. The Pennsylvanian town was quick to accept the rumors as truth, and Wing was violently assaulted. Many years later, the compassionate Wing endures the tremulous life of a recluse in Winesburg.
In response to his life-altering experience, Wing becomes tremulous; he is a fearful, nervous, and timid soul. Upon introduction to this anxious character, one cannot help but feel sorry for him. The opening scene portrays this pitiful elder in the very essence of bleak solitude, sitting alone on his dilapidated porch as innocent children play in the road. He is described as "a fat little old man [who] walked nervously up and down…a man who was bald, and whose nervous little hands fiddled about a bare white forehead as though arranging a mass of tangled locks." (Hands 1) One's focus is immediately thrown to the fidgeting hands, apparent indications of Wing's anguish and constant apprehension. However, Wing seems to resurrect in the presence of George Willard, revealing an empathetic and vivacious personality. For this reason, he often finds himself anticipating George's occasional visit. He sometimes becomes so anxious that he stands at the fence, "rubbing his hands together and looking up and down the road, and then, fear overcoming him, runs...