All of Nothing
It was dusk when George arrived in Cleveland, and all he could think of was sleep. He aimlessly found his way to a dimly lit hotel. The hotel wasn’t buzzing with people, but it did seem to have some small spark that kept it alive and warm. He was greeted by a receptionist who gave him a key to a room. There was a small fragile girl who was reading next to her. She glanced up and their eyes met for a second, but George too exhausted, took the key and went off without saying a word to her. The next morning he woke up with the sunlight beaming at his face through the west window. He staggered across the room to shut the shutters.
George frustrated thinking it was too early to be awake, decided anyways that he might as well get up and start the day. He went down to the lobby and came across Tess again. She was a small delicate looking girl, and she was pale yet she had a brilliant glow to her. Her hair was a faded blonde however, it still had a beautiful healthy shine to it. “Good morning. You’re new here aren’t you? ” she spoke. “I was going to introduce myself last night, but you seemed a little dazed and disoriented. I’m Tess by the way. ” George a little surprised by how casually she approached him.
He seemed a little bewildered but managed to speak. “Oh, hi, I’m George. Yeah, I just left my hometown in search of a new start and a new life,” George replied. “Oh, a new life? ” She said in question. “Alright well I have some errands to run but later if I catch up to you I’ll show you around,” and with that she ran off to meet the woman at the front desk. George went off to venture the town. Cleveland was bigger than Winesburg and he decided to stay to the east side of the town. George walked through Main Street and looked upon the new scenery. He thought of home, but the moment passed.
George went in pursuit to see if the town was in need of a new reporter. As George was walking he heard a rattle and clanking down through the alleyway. He approached it to find a small gray cat creeping around the filthy garbage next to a bakery. George went into the bakery and bought a fresh piece of bread. He ran back towards the alley hoping the cat would still be there. He slowly drew near it and knelt down, trying not to scare her. “You must be scared out here all by yourself,” he whispered. It meowed back at him, as though she understood him. As the cat ate the bread George slowly ran his hand softly on its back.
He gently stroked the cat’s silky fur, but with that he could also feel the frail spine and ribcage that bulged out of the starving creature. The cat trailed behind George when he decided to continue his journey into town. He slowed down to let it walk alongside him. He didn’t mind a friend accompanying him. The folks in town seemed too preoccupied with their own business to notice the new arrival. Everything seemed so new yet George felt as if there was nothing new he truly wanted to know about. The thought of meeting new people made him tiresome. George decided to go back to the hotel and play with his new friend.
George was introducing his cat into her new home when he heard someone call his name from outside. “George! ” Tess called out from the hall. “Are you going back to sleep already? Come out and explore! ” George walked outside his room to meet Tess. She smiled, grabbed his hand, and led him into town. “I want to show you something amazing. ” To George, her figure seemed so feeble and dainty but when she spoke she was so spontaneous, and there seemed to be a great flame of energy inside of her. They went off to journey a new adventure. Tess took George to a spot on the outskirt of the town.
She took him to a giant aged willow tree. Its trunk was beaten and scrapped with different carvings from past years. The magnificent branches seemed to arch in every direction. The tree stood on top of a hill that overlooked the town. George looked at Tess as she closed her eyes and carelessly opened her arms to let the cool breeze blow against her body and face. Something about her made him feel safe. As if she had some sort of purpose and that she was driven to being so spirited. He looked at her and for the first time in a long time, he felt something emerge from within him.
A smile was painted on his face, and he felt spark of light run through his veins. It wasn’t love or a crush, he just felt comfortable with her. He felt as though there was a sense of understanding even when they said nothing at all. They spent the rest of the day looking at the beautiful painted scene and watched the sun set against the horizon. “There will be a more lovely sunset tomorrow and to come,” Tess whispered. George said nothing. He tried to understand, but he never grasps what she meant. Weren’t all sunsets the same he thought? Night shadowed the sky and they started walking back home.
They walk passed the train station and came running out of the door was Tom Willard. “Dad? ” George called out. Tom’s eyes lit up when he saw his son. He ran to him and grabbed his son in his arms. “I’m sorry for everything George. I should have been more of a father to you. After your mother died, and you left I felt like I had no point in life anymore. I didn’t know what I had until I lost it. Please, come with me and let us get out of these kinds of places. Let’s go somewhere new. Let’s go to Hawaii and live carefree. I lied, success isn’t everything. You don’t need to be a writer. Let us just go and live.
Come with me. ” Tom blurted in plea. George stood there in shock at both seeing his father there and at the words that came from his mouth. The anger and frustration that built up over the years that George had against his dad boiled over. George stepped back and cried in an outburst. “How could you do this to me? I’ve spent my whole life living a lie because of you. Mom had to die for you to realize you’re a horrible father. You ignored her, you hated her, you were the one that killed her,” George shouted. “She couldn’t take it anymore. You were too busy working to notice she was sick and that she needed more attention.
All she wanted was someone to talk to and listen to her, but you couldn’t do that for her. Everything was your fault. Now you think I would want to go anywhere with you? ” George screamed, “I hate you and I never want to see you again. ” Tom stood there speechless. Agony and betrayal coated his face. “I’m sorry,” was all Tom whispered as he walked back onto the train and disappeared forever. Snow started to fall as Tess and George walk back to the hotel. Silence had fallen upon the both of them. They didn’t speak the rest of the way back.
Tess refusing to end the night without saying anything spoke her mind. I know you probably have gone through a lot, but you shouldn’t have done what you did. ” Tess continued as George remained silent. “That was your father, even if you didn’t have a good relationship with him; a father is still a father nonetheless. He still loves you without end. He just wanted the best for you. Maybe this life isn’t for you, and maybe you shouldn’t become a writer. There are other things out there, and maybe you’re meant to do something else. ” She looked at George for some sort of reply. He looked up at her at spoke. “You think you know him? You think you know me?
Well you don’t,” George spoke in frustration. “He has never been there for me. He always tells me what he wants me to be and never thinks about what I want. ” George raised his voice, “I hate him, he didn’t care about my mother and she eventually died, and if I stayed there with him or go wherever he wanted me to go, I would probably die in the end too. I wanted to get away from everything that made me think wrongly, and he was one of them. He could never be a real man; he could never be a true father. ” The both stood in silence for a moment. Tess breathed, “George, your wrong.
He was more of a father now than ever if you didn’t see that. He cared enough to try and get his son back. He wanted to do what’s best for you. You need to grow up and see that. ” George was furious cried out, “Grow Tess? I’m not the one that needs to grow up. I’m the last person that needs to grow up. I’m more mature than anyone here, and I’m more than a man than my father will ever be. This was a mistake. Having this relationship with you was a mistake. You don’t make me a better person. You’re acting just like my father; you’re both trying to act as if you think you know what’s best for me.
I’m going to get away from here and go somewhere no one will know me. I’ll go somewhere no one will ever find me. ” George fed up with everything ran off into the night. The snow finally stopped after George stumbled back to the weeping willow. He stood there and breathed in the bleak frosty air. The path of his footsteps had vanished from the new blanket of snow that had fallen over them. Tears started to spill from his eyes. He stood there and cried. He felt lifelessly alive. George ended back on a train the next day, but this time it wasn’t another town. He thought of Tess and the cat, but disregarded it as if it never happened.
He was going back to Winesburg. He didn’t want anyone to know so he went to an abandoned house on top of a hill near the Waterworks Pond. There he lived alone year after year. He had some people come and fix the place up a bit. One time he even got a carpenter to raise his bed higher so he could look out from the second floor from the west window of his room. The window held a scene of the town below. It was his canvas of grotesque. George grew old in time and became a writer who wore a white mustache and smoked. The truth was that he was a beautifully twisted happy old man now. Critical Analysis
Sherwood Anderson brings about many different themes in his book Winesburg, Ohio, and I decided to show the themes: grotesque, androgyny, and communication in my short story. I came up with a story that could fit as the last chapter of the book, but also could connect to the first story. George lives his own lie, is still constantly battles between his emotions, and still cannot find the right connections. At the start of the story George is drawn to a hotel in Cleveland because, a hotel is something that he is familiar with back in Winesburg. The hotel was his home then, and he without knowing it decides it should be in Cleveland.
George closed the shutter where the sunlight beamed from the west window showing that light was to the west, but he closed it from his life in a sense. He rejects it again when he refused to go west with his father. He decides to go into town in hopes that they are in need of a reporter. George doesn’t realize that he is just doing what he did in Winesburg. That he is learning to be a man through other people’s experiences. No matter where he goes, he will be drawn to what he is used to. It will just be another cycle, and he will end up back where he started.
The girl Tess, is small and fragile looking because, it shows how delicate she looks on the outside she really isn’t. Her personality is positive and she has a spark of light inside of her. She is a mix between Elizabeth Willard and George’s self-consciousness. She is partially a reincarnation of Elizabeth. Tess tries to help George through a time in his life where he needed his mother most. She was that comfort and motherly figure he hungered for.
When George tells her that he is trying to find a “new life in this town” and Tess replies in question because, one cannot simply find “a new life. A person can only build off of their life because; a person only has one life to live. She also tells him everything his self-consciousness would have told him after he had the episode with his father. A part of him knew that what she said was true, but he still forced himself to believe it was a lie. Also, the name Tess comes from “tesque” in the word “grotesque. ” George states that he does not need to grow up when he and Tess argued, when he really has a lot of it to do. The gray cat was also a symbol of his mother. He sympathized with his mother therefore the cat as well. The gray symbolizes a mix of light and dark.
He sympathized with the cat showing how a boy his age has the compassion for a simple creature. George later forgets about the cat in his room and leaves it. This shows how he is still battling with maturity. His compassion and sympathy is of femininity. He didn’t want to feel like that because, he felt as though it’s wrong to feel that way. The alleyway where the cat is also similar to the “darkness” as it had in Sherwood’s book. It shows how even in the darkness, George found that he can learn to feel a connection with an animal and learn to build an understanding for another living being.
Although, he never truly showed it with his mother, he eventually failed to do so with the cat as well. George does not want to venture on the west side of the story for, he is afraid of the unknown. He feels a sense of familiarity with where he is and decides to only stay there. This goes for the incident with the part where he comes across his father too. His father finally decided that he has been living a lie and realizes what is truly best for his son. Tom wants George to move away to the west and live his own life. He wants George to not worry about what others think or what society is portraying.
The fact that George and Tom never had a good communication connection, makes George upset. George releases everything he has ever wanted to tell his father. It leads him into a fate where he will never see his father again. George makes the mistake that he believes everything his father wanted at that moment is a lie, and that everything his father had said was a lie. He believed that his father never wanted the best for him, when in reality his father did. He thinks that Tom has never been there for him, that he was never a good father. Although, the grotesque of it is that no one really knows how to be a good father.
The tree is depicted on top of a hill as it connects with the old man in the first chapter of Anderson’s book. It resembles how he wanted his bed raised higher to overlook everyone and everything. The tree is a Weeping Willow because, later George breaks down and cries there. It is where he shows his true emotions. He feels as though he has broken through and that he is somewhat reborn. Although, he seems to have lost everything that once mattered to him. In the end George runs away, and goes back to Winesburg. The path he chose led him back to where he began.
One could say it was predestined for him to be there, to live and eventually die alone as well. The snow that covered his footprints when he went back to the willow tree also portrayed this too. It showed that no matter where he goes, people will overtime forget and move on. It shows that things simply come and go. George is the old man in the first chapter “The Book of the Grotesque” at the end of my story. He ends up growing old, alone, and does end up becoming a writer. To him, being alone and living with no other true connection with the outside world kept him alive.