By Sam Bluefarb
Publication by way of Bluefarb, Sam
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Extra resources for The Escape Motif in the American Novel: Mark Twain to Richard Wright.
I can't even talk to father about it. I don't try. There isn't any use. I don't know what I shall do. " She wanted to cry out with joy because of the words that had come from the lips of her son, but the expression of joy had become impossible to her. "I think you had better go out among the boys. You are too much indoors," she said. "I thought I would go for a little walk," replied the son. (pp. 36-37) The dialogue sets the tone for the relationship between George and his mother and shows the kind of restlessness that George has inherited from her.
But Tom Willard has also been disappointed by life. He is the proprietor of the New Willard Hotel, which has seen better days and which symbolizes for Tom Willard all of the larger disappoint ments of his disappointed life. Instead of fulfilling the promise that it had once held for him, it is now a gnawing reminder of the promise that has been broken. The hotel was unprofitable and forever on the edge of failure and he wished himself out of it. As he went spruce and businesslike through the streets of Winesburg, he sometimes stopped and turned quickly about as though fearing that the spirit of the hotel would follow him even into the streets.
No theme in American literature has held the imagination of our writers more firmly than has that of small-town life. Such onceobsessive themes as the fall from innocence, the initiation, and the escape itself have for a long time been subordinate to that of the small town and its impact on the emerging conscience. Anderson's Winesburg is, of course, one of the prime examples of that life. Peeling off the outer layers of these lives in Winesburg, Anderson, in episode after episode, reveals what are essentially layers of respectability—or the appearance of it—to show us the core of reality that lies at the heart of the town.