Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) was an American writer best known for his 1919 work Winesburg, Ohio, a collection of vignettes set in a small Ohio town. His novels Poor White (1920) and Dark Laughter (1925) were also successful.
Life and Works
Anderson was born on September 13, 1876, in Camden, Ohio. When he was young, his father's (Irwin McClain Anderson's) business failed, his mother (Emma Jane Smith) drank frequently, and he had to leave to help family finances at age fourteen. He worked on a farm, in a factory, as a copyright man for advertisement, served in the Spanish-American War, and eventually managed a paint factory in Elyria. In 1913, when he was the father of three children, he moved to Chicago, where he began to work with imaginative writing.
He joined a literary group with Carl Sandburg and Theodore Dreiser in Chicago, where he wrote Windy McPherson's Son (1916), his first novel, about the son of a man like his father who told tall tales, and a second novel, Marching Men (1917). It was after them that he convinced a reluctant publisher to publish his defining work, Winesburg, Ohio (1919). His Winesburg, Ohio, the first display of "grotesque" characters, is a collection of short stories, each concerning a different resident of the the fictional town of Winesburg, narrated by the character George Willard, who becomes the subject of the final short story, "departure." After it came Many Marriages (1923), a story of lust told by a man of four wives, Dark Laughter (1925), a novel supporting primitive and pre-government ways, and Beyond Desire (1932), of the Southern textile mills.
Dark Laughter, set in New Orleans, earned him enough money to move to Virginia, where he continued to write of the labor conditions in factories there, though his work did not receive as much attention from critics. He traveled in Europe and later Latin America researching labor conditions and died on March 8, 1941 of peritonitis in Colón, Panama.
- The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference. Prentice Hall: New York, 1991.
- "Anderson, Sherwood." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.