Winesburg, Ohio is a series of short novels written by Sherwood Anderson and published in 1919, which depicts the daily lives of ordinary citizens in small-town rural America. Throughout the book, the author offers us glimpses and snapshots into the characters’ frames of mind within specific moments in time, when they are experiencing emotional turmoil. These brief scenes are not just momentary events affecting them but the results of a life-long period of isolation, forcing their lives to revolve around a single, particular thing. In the story titled Adventure, we can see the woman, Alice, falling in love with the concept of being romantically involved, so much so that years after the man she was thinking about has left her, she still clings to the idea and rejects the reality, in favor of an unattainable fantasy.
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Alice’s Obsession as Seen over the Course of Time (153-157)
Alice’s obsession with Ned and the idea of getting married with him begins as something of a first crush, back when she was sixteen. When young and impressionable, first experiences are often the most memorable. Her romance with Ned, though nothing particularly special in retrospect, becomes the best experience she has in her life. Due to how dull and unimpressive life in Winesburg is, she clings to the memory of it desperately, seeing herself as a heroine of a tragic love story. It is a more compelling narrative than that of a girl who was a man’s one-time fling. Her perception of Ned and their relationship changed over time. At first, for a number of years, she actually expected him to return to her to marry, as indicated in this line: “For a number of years nothing could have induced her to believe that Ned Currie would not in the end return to her” (Anderson 158).
Then, her frame of mind changed, as she slowly began accommodating to the idea that Ned might not be coming back to her. It showed a paradigm shift rather than that of being caught in the moment. “I am his wife and shall remain his wife whether he comes back or not.” – she says to herself, as her consciousness is wrestling with the idea of it (Anderson 159). As time goes on and the feeling of dread settles in, the woman realizing that what her fantasy is not going to happen, but chooses to cling to it over moving on and having relationships with people clearly interested in her, such as the drug clerk: “It is not him that I want, she told herself; I want to avoid being so much alone. If I am not careful, I will grow unaccustomed to being with people” (Anderson 163). Her short story ends in a mental breakdown, called an “adventure,” when she felt the mad urge to stand in the rain and take possession of the closest human to her. Tragically, it was a deaf man who could not hear her pleas – a metaphor for her behavior through all those years.
Alice’s snapshots of mind, as presented in Adventure, demonstrate an evolution of the frame of mind over the course of the years. She does not want to marry Ned, in a goal-determination sense of the world, as she does nothing to find him and make her dreams come true. Instead, she fantasizes about the relationship that is never going to be, and slowly loses herself to it, falling into desperation and borderline madness. It is not a momentary passion or madness, but a systematic degeneration of the character over time, turning a once passionate woman into a grotesque parody of herself.
Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio. B. W. Huebsch, 1919.