Winesburg, Ohio

An Examination of the Nature and Perception of Success in Sherwood Anderson’s “Paper Pills” 11th Grade

Through “Paper Pills,” Sherwood Anderson illustrates the importance appearances play in society when measuring success. The opening paragraphs introduce the two main characters, the doctor and his wife, not by name or even personality, but predominantly by appearance. The narrator recalls the physician as “an old man with a white beard and huge nose and hands” (Anderson 293). Again, as if preoccupied with physical characteristics, the narrator later comments, “the knuckles of the doctor’s hands were extraordinarily large. When the hands were closed they looked like clusters of unpainted wooden balls as large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods” (294). The reference to the sheer size of the doctor’s nose, hands, and knuckles insinuates physical deformity. The word “unpainted” implies the knuckles are unpolished blemishes, the hands rendered hard and unyielding by the metaphorical “steel rods.” The comparison of the doctor’s knuckles to the “gnarled apples” (294) in the orchards of Winesburg, the town in which he lives, suggests that his physical imperfections could, like the substandard apples, lead to repudiation. “On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of...

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