A short story cycle (sometimes referred to as a story sequence or composite novel) is a collection of short stories in which the narratives are specifically composed and arranged with the goal of creating an enhanced or different experience when reading the group as a whole as opposed to its individual parts. Short story cycles are different from novels because the parts that would make up the chapters can all stand alone as short stories, each individually containing a beginning, middle and conclusion. When read as a group there is a tension created between the ideas of the individual stories, often showing changes that have occurred over time or highlighting the conflict between two opposing concepts or thoughts. Because of this dynamic, the stories need to have an awareness of what the other stories accomplish; therefore, cycles are usually written with the expressed purpose to create a cycle as opposed to being gathered and arranged later.
Today’s story from the Sherwood Anderson short story cycle Winesburg, Ohio, is entitled “Loneliness,” and concerns the character Enoch Robinson. The story also introduces the reader to George Willard, a central character in the short story cycle, whose presence in the stories serves to help construct a unity among the stories and different characters.
“Loneliness,” by Sherwood Anderson…we begin….