Winesburg, Ohio Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Winesburg, Ohio” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Winesburg, Ohio” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints about how to use PaperStarter.com in the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Literary Function of Depression

For most readers, Winesburg, Ohio is likely to be a depressing text. Most, if not all, of the characters are “grotesques"—people who are blinded by false truths, who are lonely and alienated from one another, who are frustrated, and most of whom seem to have no possibility of overcoming the limitations of their conditions. Consider Anderson’s motivation for writing such a depressing tale. Write an essay in which you defend and explain the literary function of depression in Winesburg, Ohio. The depressive nature of the text is not depressed for its own sake, but for an underlying, more profound, ideological reason. Explain what you interpret that reason to be in an argumentative essay on “Winesburg, Ohio”, and what Anderson ultimately may want to convey to the reader.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Nature of Truth

One of the central preoccupations of Winesburg, Ohio is understanding what truth is, how people arrive at it, and how they use it to justify their decisions. The meditation of the Old Man in the “Book of the Grotesques" offers the plainest version of what truth is and what it is not, but other characters offer, either through direct articulation or through the reader’s interpretation of their actions and circumstances, what truth is and what its limitations are. Examine the Old Man’s meditation or another character’s contentions about truth and develop an argument in which you explain what you think Anderson meant by the word “truth." For this essay on “Winesburg, Ohio” you may wish to focus on only one character, or you may wish to set up a compare/contrast framework that will allow you to consider different kinds of truth and which Anderson believes to be most valuable.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Structure and Organization

The structure and organization of Winesburg, Ohio is unique because it offers distinct stories that can stand alone, but which also read as a cohesive larger narrative. The characters from one story to another are not related by anything other than their existential despair, but this quality establishes the overall sense of community in Winesburg. Write an essay in which you analyze this structure and evaluate its effectiveness. Assess the relative advantages and disadvantages of this type of narrative structure. Consider how the loose connections between the stories reflect the loose connections among the characters themselves.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: “The world is on fire…."

In one story, a character meditates at length on the subject of decay, and declares, “The world is on fire…." (see quotes, below). The conclusion of this character is that it is impossible to prevent decay or lessen its destructive impact, a rather fatalistic position. Considering this philosophical position, examine the various forms of decay that are present in Winesburg, Ohio. Be sure to address not only the physical decay of the community, but also psychological, intellectual, and emotional decay. You may wish to defend a position about which kind of decay is most threatening, not only to the residents of Winesburg, but to humankind.

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Dreams and Impossibilities

Dreams play a significant role in the lives of many characters in this text. Some characters dream of escaping Winesburg, some dream of better relationships with the people they love, still others dream of understanding themselves and others better. There is a big gap, though, between dreams and their realization. Taking a panoramic view of the dreams of the characters in this text, identify the personal and structural barriers that prevent the residents of Winesburg from achieving their dreams. Then, explain what Anderson might have prescribed as the remedy for overcoming these obstacles. Express whether you believe that Anderson thought it was possible, given the limitations of the modern world, to realize one’s dreams.


This list of important quotations from “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Winesburg, Ohio” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “Winesberg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson they are referring to.

“[I]n the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts." (6)

“It was the truths that made the people grotesques." (6)

“[T]he moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood." (6)

“He was one of those rare, little-understood men who rule by a power so gentle that it passes as lovable weakness." (14)

“Although he still hungered for the or the presence of the boy, who was the medium through which he expressed his love of man, the hunger became again a part of his loneliness and waiting." (16)
“The truth clouded the world. It became terrible and then faded away, and the little thoughts began again." (20)

“I want someone to love and I want someone to love me…." (82)

“Let’s take decay. Now what is decay? It’s fire. It burns up wood and other things. You never thought of that? Of course not…. Decay you see is always going on. It doesn’t stop…. The world is on fire." (97)

“She expected from all people certain conventional reactions to life." (123)

“Most boys have seasons of wishing they could die gloriously instead of just being grocery clerks and going on with their humdrum lives." (204)

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