Telling time: Time, chronology and change in Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" and Jean Toomer's "Cane"

Date of Completion

January 2004


Literature, Modern|Literature, American




Winesburg, Ohio and Cane are examples of early twentieth century American Modernism that attempt to present an experience analogous to lived experience in a changing America. They accomplish this through the development of a new hybrid genre built on the intersection of the short story sequence and the novel. Anderson himself believed that the novel form, inherited from Europe, was no longer adequate to represent the American experience. Toomer was influenced by Anderson. ^ Both works present alienated characters in rural communities affected by the economic changes in American life. These characters are alienated to the degree that they cannot take part in coherent communities. In their approaches to presenting the alienation in their respective fictional communities, Anderson and Toomer use disruption and failed communication among their characters and among the stories that make up their collections; they do so through manipulation of lyric and narrative tropes. The problem of understanding and communication here is manifest in the overlap of lyric and narrative. This overlap of lyric and narrative is accomplished through the division of these works into temporal and spatial planes that disrupt the potential narrative and present the narrative world from separate perspectives. ^