The Gravity of George Willard

By Kat Greene


While reading Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, I realized the town and its stories revolve around George Willard. He is the character which most other characters gravitate toward, confide in, and engage with. He is the personification of the town. An ironic twist, because he decides to leave in the final story, “Departure.” Regardless, the gravity he creates in Winesburg holds the stories together, and thus, the journalist became the center of my reverse storyboard.



As I read the stories (in order), I took detailed notes of the events and the people presented in each story. Once I had finished, I cut my notes into the individual stories and arranged each story according to its relationship to George Willard. I found that there were three types of people who directly touched Mr. Willard: friends (“The Thinker” – “Loneliness”), family (“Mother”), love interests (“An Awakening” – “Sophistication”). The stories in their respective categories encircle “Departure.” Additionally, three characters have shared a secret or back story with George that they have not shared with anyone else. These stories are noted with a star.


 
Next, I looked at the stories that split off from the main circle, such as “Mother,” “Death,” and “Paper Pills.”


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I found that my completed storyboard highlighted three important things. 
  1. First, the arrangement further emphasizes Anderson’s theme of isolation. Stories such as “Tandy” and “Adventure” are deeply entrenched with isolation and are visually isolated in the storyboard. The same can be said for the “Godliness” stories, as well as “Man of Ideas,” “The Untold Lie,” and “Queer.” 
  2. Second, the arrangement highlighted for me the paradox that despite the fact that the majority of the characters felt alone, they were all very similar. 
  3. Finally, the storyboard as a whole is held together by the narrator’s storytelling. Sherwood’s rhetorical choice to include an all-knowing narrator, who I suspect could the voice of the old writer in the book he never published, as mentioned in “The Book of the Grotesques,” unifies the collection.

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