They're not really stories. They're just people. I myself remember with what shock I heard people say that Winesburg was an exact picture of Ohio village life. The book was written in a crowded tenement district of Chicago. The hint for almost every character was taken from my fellow lodgers in a crowded rooming house.
At times there comes over me a terrible conviction that I am living in a city of the dead. Life is a loose flowing thing. There are no plot stories in life. I had begun writing of the little lives I knew, the people I had lived, walked and talked with…
I have come to think that the true history of life is but a series of moments. It is only at rare moments that we live. Sherwood Anderson
Winesburg is a book largely set in twilight and darkness, its backgrounds heavily shade with gloomy blacks and marshy greys - as if proper for a world of withered men who, sheltered by the night, reach out for the sentient life they dimly recall…Like most fiction, Winesburg is a variation on the theme of reality and appearance, in which deformations caused by day (public life) are intensified at night and, in their very extremity, become an entry to reality. Winesburg, Ohio as a Dance of Death, David Stouck
In its fundamental quality Winesburg is non realistic; it does not seek to gratify the eye with a verisimilitude to social forms…In rather shy lyrical outbursts the book conveys a vision of American life as a depressed landscape cluttered with dead stumps, twisted oddities, grotesque and pitiful wrecks; a landscape where ghosts fumble erratically and romance is reduced to mere fugitive brushings in the night; a landscape eerie with the cracked echoes of village queers rambling in their lonely eccentricity. Again and again Winesburg suggests that beneath the exteriors of our life the deformed exert dominion, that the seeming wealth of our state derives from a deep malignancy. And Winesburg echoes with American loneliness.
Only when man gives precedence to his spirit over material things will he wear his suffering lightly.
Decay is an image that recurs: Winesburg is “a wasteland ruled by dull, conventional people…Rubbish and broken glass clutter the alleys and the streets of the village.”
The figures of Winesburg usually personify to fantastic excess a condition of psychic deformity which is the consequence of some crucial failure in their lives, some aborted effort to extend their personalities or proffer their love.
Whenever Anderson's characters…imprisoned by their frustrations born of abortive attempts to communicate with their fellow human beings make a final attempt to express their love or helplessness, it is done through hands. This is why…'nothing happens' in Winesburg. For most of its figures it is too late for anything to happen, they can only muse over the traumas which have so harshly limited their spontaneity. Stripped of their animate wholeness and twisted into frozen postures of defence, they are indeed what Anderson called them: grotesques. Merrill Studies in Winesburg, Ohio
The most important symbol is that of the room, frequently used to suggest isolation and confinement. Winesburg, Ohio edited by John H. Ferres
The book's central strand of action…is the effort of the grotesques to establish intimate relations with George Willard. At night, when they need not fear the mockery of public detection, they hesitantly approach him, almost in supplication, to tell him of their afflictions and perhaps find health in his voice. Sherwood Anderson: A Study of the Short Fiction, Robert Allen Papinchak
A panorama, with souls instead of trees, with minds in place of houses. Chicago Daily News, 1919