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Sherwood Anderson

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Essay title: Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson’s first writings were essays, sketches, and stories that he wrote in his spare time in 1900. At the time he owned a roofing supply company. He began writing novels in 1910 but in 1912 he suffered a nervous breakdown and slowly transitioned into a rebellious writer. Other rebellious writers of the time included authors such as Carl Sandburg and Ben Hecht. He published his first works known as the Winesburg Tales in 1916. They were published in several literary magazines. His first published novel, Windy McPherson’s Son, which he wrote in 1916, was an autobiographical work. The character in the story was based off Anderson’s father in real life, the character is described as a “drifter and a teller of tall tales.” He worried that it was not “loose and disorderly enough” to reflect American life. Anderson often said that his writing had to be crude in order to truly reflect American life. In 1917, he wrote and published his second book, Marching Men and in 1918, he published a book of free-verse poems, Mid-American Chants. Anderson said that he felt that his first novels were “raw and immature.”

When he wrote, he preferred to write in the evenings. If he couldn’t write at night he would take the day off and write in his room with the curtains pulled and a few lit candles.

Anderson said when he wrote he felt like “a woman having my babies, one after another, but without pain.”

He wasn’t recognized as a great author until his novel, Winesburg, Ohio, which he published in 1919. It was a collaboration of twenty-four stories. Anderson claimed that Hands, the opening story, was his first “real” story that he ever wrote. He wrote most of the stories in the fall and winter of 1915 and 1916. Anderson was so pleased with himself when he finished it; he went to the local bar and bought people drinks in celebration. It got mixed reviews, the older critics hated it but the younger critics loved it. The book revealed the life of ordinary people living in a small Midwestern town. The town was modeled off of his hometown, Clyde. The people in his story were not people who had succeeded in life, but they were decent people anyway. Anderson called the characters in his books, “grotesques”, which was his way to describe people who had been defeated by their own dreams and left them open to be hurt. Some people took it as Anderson making fun of the people in the small town. He defended his writing by saying: “Certainly I did not write to make fun of these people or to make them ridiculous or ugly; they are personally people I would like to spend my life with.” It was a style that had never been seen before in writing. His book influenced many great writers to come, such as; Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Taylor Caldwell and many others. He personally helped Earnest Hemingway and William

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