Lesson 2. George Willard’s Development
This unit introduces students to Sherwood Anderson and his use of the grotesque in Winesburg, Ohio, while focusing their analysis on the central character George and his relationships with family members and town residents.
Winesburg, Ohio is a collection of short stories bound together by a central character, George Willard, a young newspaper reporter who lives in the town. George does not figure prominently in all of the pieces. In some stories he plays a minor role as listener and observer, in others; however, the focus of the story is exclusively on him and on his family. The story cycle depicts George’s maturation from immature boy to self-aware young man, making the work as a whole a Bildungsroman.
It is clear the townspeople of Winesburg are fond of young George and tend to tell him things kept secret from most others, as he is a good listener. George appears to be a kind of tabula rasa, a character near the beginning of the process of becoming himself. Unlike other characters in the work, George seems curiously undamaged by his family background. He knows very little about love, but he demonstrates a willingness to learn about people and a capacity for self-growth.
In this lesson students first consider George as he is depicted in several stories. They then focus on the more in-depth profiles of George presented in six stories in the cycle.
Part of a three lesson unit on Winesburg, Ohio, this lesson may be taught in sequence or stand on its own. Teachers may link to the full unit with Guiding Questions, Background and summative Assessment. Lesson 2 aligns with CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3.
To analyze Sherwood Anderson’s portrayal of George Willard by gathering details and description of this main character throughout the Winesburg, Ohio story cycle
To use textual evidence to consider the perspective of the central character George in his evolving relationships with others in the town.