Sophistication by Sherwood Anderson

Summary: Sophistication by Sherman Anderson is about a young man and woman that grow up in a small town and meet with each other when they are younger. The woman goes off to school and the man stays behind in the town, however they are both eager to show the other their emotional growth.


George Willard : Young man that is in the process of becoming a man

Helen White : Young woman in the process of becoming a woman

Section One:

  • George Willard is from a small village and is growing into manhood fast, recently his mother has died
  • George is starting to have "sophisticated" adult thoughts now that he is thinking about the future and the past (in contemplation)
  • George is in a state of trouble thinking because he realizes how short the human life is, he feels insignificant
  • Helen White is from the same town as George, she is going through a similar change as George
  • The background for Helen and George is a walk where George boast about becoming something big
  • George is brought back to the present after thinking of his walk with Helen, he is still upset because he hasn't been able to talk with Helen; he may be jealous because Helen is spending time with an instructor from her school

Section Two:

  • Helen is restless at her house; the instructor ask if she has someone in town she is interested in; he sounds "pompous" to her
  • Helen's mother says no one in town is suitable for her "breed" quality
  • Helen sneaks outside only to run into George; (George was planning on walking into the house and just "sit down")
  • Helen and George leave the house together and go for a walk

Section Three:

  • George is still feeling lonely and isolated even though he is with Helen, however it is both relieved and intensified by Helen's presence
  • Helen's feelings reflect George's and it seems they are in the same state of mind
  • Youth thinking is described as "warm unthinking and animal like"; While adult thinking "reflects and remembers and is more sophisticated"
  • George thinks life is meaningless , however he also loves life "so intensely that tears come into the eyes"
  • George and Helen both reflect for a while, then they fall into the comfort of youth; They both have gotten something from the other they needed


  • George is reflecting on the fragile nature of life because his mother has died; he is in a state of gloom
  • The sadness of sophistication is referring to the knowledge that life is short lived, and fragile
  • Helen is also in a state of growing, as she looks at the small town she is from; she likes being with the instructor because it would create an impression with the people, however she did not like him because he was pompous and overly concerned with small details

© 2009 copyright Sophistication | Sherwood Anderson