Though there is practically no argument about the unity of structure within Winesburg, Ohio, few scholars have concluded that it fits the standards of a conventional novel. Instead, it is typically placed "...midway between the novel proper and the mere collection of stories," known as the short story cycle. Aside from its structural unity, the common setting, characters, symbolism and "consistency of mood" are all additional qualities that tie the stories together despite their initial publication as separate tales.
Promoted to younger writers by Anderson himself, Winesburg, Ohio has served as a representative early example of the modern short story cycle in American letters. Comparisons between Winesburg, Ohio and Jean Toomer's Cane (1923), Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time (1925), William Faulkner's Go Down Moses (1942), and several of John Steinbeck's works, among others, demonstrate the pervasiveness of the formal innovations made in Anderson's book.
The focus on George Willard's development as a young man and a writer has also led some critics to put Winesburg, Ohio within the tradition of "the American boy book, the Bildungsroman, and the Künstlerroman".