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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 15 - 'LONELINESS'

SETTING

The setting is first at the town of Winesburg. It then shifts to New York City, in a narrow room facing Washington square.

CHARACTER LIST

Major Characters

Enoch Robinson - Son of Mrs. Al Robinson, he remained always a child, unable to face the difficulties of adulthood.

Minor Characters

George Willard - The young reporter.

Woman - A lady who comes to Enoch's house


CONFLICT

Protagonist - The protagonist is Enoch Robinson whose unusual dealing of his life has been depicted.

Antagonist - The antagonist is the lady who comes to her house, who according to Enoch, steals away his mental picture of his people and leaves him all alone.

Climax - The climax arrives when after inviting the woman to his room, Enoch finds himself afraid of her, and so, with vile words, sends her away.

Outcome - After the woman's departure, it seems to Enoch that all his beloved imaginary people too leave along with her and a devastated Enoch has to return to Winesburg.

THEMES

The Themes in the story is the imagined and fragile protection that in weak man forms for himself, against the cruel, outside world and the utter devastation when that fragile protection is pricked and torn asunder.

MOOD

The mood in the beginning is serious. It lightens up a little when Enoch's life in New York is described but becomes virtually tragic at the end of the story.

STORY SUMMARY

Enoch Robinson is Mrs. Al. Robinson's son, a quiet youth, inclined to silence. A little slow at times, he kept to himself and lived a private life of his own. At the age of twenty-one, he left Winesburg and went to New York, to study French and become an artist and a city man. He rented a long and narrow room, and spent his time, painting and entertaining artists.

His room used to be filled with upcoming artists, all vociferous in their views about composition, lines, and values. Enoch never spoke a word, he would have wanted to throw at them. By and by, he began disbarring his friends from entering and spent his time talking volubly to imaginary friends in his rooms. It was only to them that he could express his deepest and mightiest thoughts.

When he felt the need to get married, he married a girl, had two children, and shifted to an apartment house. His new phase of life included being a citizen of the world, voting at an election and paying taxes.

However, his marriage did not last and finally he left his wife and children and returned to his rented flat. But something happened to Enoch, which made him leave and return to Winesburg. By the time he’s an old man and Enoch relates his story to George Willard. Apparently, a woman comes to him to his room, and he is caught in a vortex of emotions, of wanting and not wanting her. He tells her all about his imaginary friends, and then begins shouting at her, finally when she leaves she takes his friends along with her, and that was the end of his imaginary friends. This drives him back to his hometown, but now he is all alone, miserable, and sad.

Notes

Enoch has been portrayed as an innocent, naive boy, different from all others. His slowness make him a butt of others jokes and people got irked at him. Yet his interest in painting, and his desire to find his vocation abroad, shows sense in him and also a need to establish himself as a city man, and a man of means.

Yet nothing turns out well for him. Enoch's simplicity of mind is unable to grasp the complex nuances of money, sex, and opinions. His need to befriend others makes him invite fellow- artists into his room. But their sublime talks are beyond him. Yet he wishes to show himself as good as them, which results in the invention of his imaginary friends. All that he couldn't say in front of his artist friends is easily said to his new friends as they never can laugh at him and hear all his outpourings.

Enoch however is a man-child, not fitting in any of the typical moulds formed by society. Married life did not agree with him and neither did his so-called career ever take off.

Enoch's final humiliation and tragedy is whenever his imaginary friends forsake him. The arrival of the woman in his life, after a long period of isolation virtually overcomes him "she was too big for the room. I felt that she was driving everything else away." Enoch's sense of insecurity is furthered by the woman's presence yet he is pulled towards her, and in the end he has to resort to shouting at her to drive her away. This shouting and ranting is as much for her as it is for his own self.

Her departure however takes the life out of him. He is unable to project his imaginary friends' back again, and this leaves him bereft and alone. Thus, as a return to his hometown he is a sad, unhappy, lonesome old man.

It is probable that he considered it his strength that he could hold on to his imaginary friends. But the arrival of a stronger individual saps his own strength, and he is unable to face the consequences. Enoch thus finds his life as empty as it was in the beginning.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Enoch Robinson - Enoch is a simple-minded lad, with a desire to display his talents in painting. His inability to get along with the other artists of the city makes him form his own imaginary circle of friends. With them, he is never at a loss of words and is fairly eloquent while describing his paintings. This Utopian world of his begins crumbling soon after his marriage, the final blow comes in the form of a lady whom he invites over to his place. But at the last minute, fear overcomes him and he throws her out. Yet the final misery is when he is unable to bring back his imaginary friends. He is lost without them and so returns to Winesburg a desolate old man.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The story begins with an exposition of Enoch and his life as an artist. The climax is reached when Enoch who is confused by the woman’s actions and finally throws her out of the house. The outcome is sad because he realizes that with her, all his people, his dreams too had left.

The story setting shifts from Winesburg, Ohio to the streets of New York City, and back to Winesburg town. Enoch lived in Winesburg to be acknowledged as an artist and returned back a broken man, with no deals or perspectives. George Willard has been used merely as a tool to help Enoch speak out his tale of woe.

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

Enoch is an excellent example of many such human beings, who need to form a shield, to protect themselves from the vehemence of the outside world. His fixation over his imaginary friends is acute and describes his lack of confidence in himself.

Such is his weak confidence that a woman's presence in his room can unsettle him and even her departure is taken as if she has carried his friends away. Without two friends, Enoch is naked and defenseless, and is no more unable to face the tough life of the city. Hence his return to his hometown, Winesburg.

STUDY QUESTIONS

What do these imaginary people denote? Explain.

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