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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 11 - 'THE THINKER'

SETTING

The story is set in Winesburg, Ohio, in Richmond House, which is in a little valley at the end of Main Street.

CHARACTER LIST

Major Characters

Seth Richmond - The son of Virginia Richmond, he is a great thinker and has remarkable clarity of thought.

Minor Characters

Virginia Richmond - Widow of Clarence Richmond, she has a close relation with her son, Seth, yet is afraid of his intelligence.

George Willard - The young reporter, he is also a friend of Seth.

Helen White - A young girl for whom Seth has feelings of affection.


CONFLICT

Protagonist - Seth is the protagonist as the story revolves around him. His thoughts and emotions have been dealt with in the story.

Antagonist - For Seth, George is a friend, yet on hearing that George too likes Helen White, Seth's feelings for him become bitter and suspecting. Yet George is not really the antagonist, since he does no harm, to either George, or anyone else. suspecting.

Climax - The climax in the story is reached when Helen walks out with Seth and Seth speaks of George's affection to her.

Outcome - The outcome of this meeting is the awakening of Seth’s desire to leave town and seek his future else where, and also realization that it would be people like George who would always get the girl, is concluded by Seth.

THEMES

The underlying theme is that underneath the façade of thinker and philosopher, a man can be as confused and afraid as anyone else. This is clearly depicted by the author' portrayal of Seth's character.

MOOD

The mood remains calm through the story. An undercurrent of hostility is noticed between George and Seth, which however dissipates soon.

STORY SUMMARY

Seth Richmond is a young boy who lives in Winesburg. His father, who died in a shootout with an editor of a magazine, a highly admired man in his times. His mother, Virginia had raised Seth up single handedly. However, she can never quite understand her son, who is too serious and quiet a boy to be treated in a normal way. Virginia finds it difficult to even reprimand her son, since he has the habit of looking straight into her eye, thus causing uneasy doubts to enter her mind.

Seth's only friend is George Willard, with whom he has a somewhat comfortable relationship but one day, when George discloses to him his plan to fall in love with Helen White, Seth is dismayed and irked, since he himself has personal thoughts about her. As retaliation, Seth goes over to her house and invites her for a walk. Helen too has a soft corner for Seth and so agrees to walk with Seth. However Seth is so agitated that he inadvertently reveals George's message of love to Helen. He then speaks out his plans of going to work and leaving his hometown. When he claims that this meeting would be their last one, Helen is swept away by sentiments and kisses him.

After she leaves, Seth is filled with a sense of loneliness and feels that only, men like George can win girls for themselves.

Notes

Seth's father has been portrayed as a "quiet, passionate man extraordinarily admired by his neighbors. " But his death leaves behind just debt and insecure investments for his wife. Her husband's name having being coupled with a woman does not distress the widow, as her confidence and faith over her husband is high.

The mother son relationship is shown to be a very strange one "an almost unhealthy respect for the youth kept the mother for the most part silent in his presence." Seth has been depicted as a somber, serious boy who behaves far beyond his age. Even the mother is unable to deal with him.

The incident when Seth and a few boys run away from home and on their return, Seth's remark of "wanting to stick it out with them," shows a remarkable adult response in such a young boy. Yet, the truth is that no really great purpose lay in his habitual silence, neither does he have any definite plan for his life. He is probably as confused a youth as any other boy his age he only does not reveal it to the world.

His confused and agitated state of mind can be seen in his conversation with Helen White. Though wishing to show himself as her suitor, he goes on to tell her that George Willard is in love with her. Afterwards he speaks about leaving the town altogether, in search of work, Helen obviously takes his words in its face value and in good humor bids him farewell.

At the end, Seth's demoralized state of mind is shown "that's how it'll be when it comes to loving someone, it won't never be me." What he feels probably is that ultimately, it is the go- getters like George, "who talks a lot", who will do well in life, while the thinker, the philosopher, himself, would never achieve anything in life.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Seth Richmond - He is the son of Virginia and the late Clarence Richmond. From his childhood, he is noticeable for his ponderous disposition and deep thoughts. Even as a young lad, he is capable of evaluating and analyzing his own actions and emotions. This even makes his own mother find him formidable. But underneath this is a boy quite unsure of himself and seeking guidance. He was also a lonely boy. No great underlying purpose lays in his habitual silence; neither does he have any definite plan for his life.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The plot begins with a description of the main characters and their relationships with each other. The story reaches its climax when Seth decides to leave the town, and mentions it to Helen. There is no clear outcome, only a feeling of sentiment engulfing Helen and their parting. The story ends with a feeling of self- pity in Seth.

The story moves in sequence, with not much of backtracking. Very little is described of either Clarence or Virginia. The plot however moves smoothly, but with no precise ending. After the rendezvous with Helen, alone Seth's thoughts and emotions are described.

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The façade of intelligence, hiding a confused and lonely soul, is the overriding theme in the story. The respectful behavior of the people towards Seth unnerves him. This theme depicts the confusion in every segment of his life. He is confused about whether to leave the town for a better future. He is also confused about his feelings for Helen White. The story ending shows the deepening of his confused state of mind and his negative thinking about his own life.

STUDY QUESTIONS

Describe Seth Richmond as a thinker? Do you consider him as one or is he merely another confused being?

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