Living in Ohio for the majority of his life, Sherwood Anderson based many of his stories on city life in Ohio. Anderson’s short stories were influenced by not only his surroundings, but also by his life-shaping events that occurred in his youth. Throughout the stories “Sophistication” and “Hands”, Sherwood Anderson expresses his astute knowledge of loneliness and isolation in relation to the protagonists’ sexuality, while also differentiating the root of these emotions in each character’s lifestyle as he continues through life and overcomes its obstacles.
Throughout his youth, Anderson experienced life-altering events that shaped the basis for many of his stories. In his childhood, Anderson experienced desultory schooling and worked several jobs, including a newsboy, a housepainter, a stable boy, a farmhand, and a laborer in a bicycle factory, many of which are jobs of those in his writing (May, ed. 77). The central psychological event in Anderson’s life occurred in 1912, when he suffered a nervous breakdown. Subsequently he moved to Chicago where he began writing. Here, he also met Dr. Trigant Burrow of Baltimore, who operated a Freudian therapeutic camp in Lake Chateauguay, New York, attended by Anderson the summers of 1915 and 1916 (May, ed. 77). Influenced not only by life events, Anderson’s writings contain clear commonalities, allowing clear comparisons to be made.
Many critics notice the connection between recurring themes such as seclusion and sexuality to differentiate each parallel and topic shown in Anderson’s work. Both stories are from Sherwood Anderson’s book Winesburg, Ohio that is set during the latter part of the 19th century. The stories “catalog Anderson’s negative reaction to the transformation of Ohio from a largely agricultural to an industrial society, which culminated about the time he was growing up in the village of Clyde in the 1800’s” (May, ed. 78). However, the two chosen stories differ in terms of linking sexuality to the bizarre behavior of many of Anderson’s characters and by utilizing a consistent theme, exploration of psychological behaviors, in terms of proceedings and sentiments (May, ed. 78). Although the stories differ in some themes, such as their use of expressing sensations and true sexuality, they share the theme of having intense dramatic confrontation within personal relationships, such as self-discovery through a person’s desperate need for conversation, even if the conversation contains no content (Ward 41). Daily conversations allow for standard social lives, and in these stories, it seems as though each character’s social life has escaped them, succumbing to loneliness. Though these themes seem pertinent to many stories, Anderson uses his idea of sexuality and seclusion to distinguish his stories from those of other writers.
In Sherwood Anderson’s “Sophistication”, George Willard struggles through life looking for someone who can understand his loneliness as he strives for and...