“Paper Pills” is a short story written by Sherwood Anderson in his most recognized book, Winesburg, Ohio, which has several interrelated stories (Belasco 859). The story is about an older physician, named Dr. Reefy, who is distanced from society, and only expresses his thoughts on pieces of paper, which he stuffs into his pockets (Bort). Eventually, he meets a younger woman who he marries and shares those crumbled pieces of paper with for a brief period before her death. The story is recounted by an unknown narrator, which is the same narrator throughout the book—using several instances of imagery and symbolism to describe Dr. Reefy’s hands, truths, and his courtship and relationship with the younger woman.
The description of Dr. Reefy’s hands is a prominent image used throughout “Paper Pills”. His hands are described as enormous with “extraordinarily large” knuckles and when closed resemble “clusters of unpainted wooden balls as large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods” (Anderson 867). This description implies that his hands are rough in appearance and adds to his mien as an older-meek man. Later in the story, the narrator compares Doctor Reefy’s hands to “gnarled apples,” which image also symbolizes his courtship with the younger woman (Anderson 867). According to Epifanio San Juan Jr., these images of Doctor Reefy’s hands fuse together different “figurative patterns” in the story. San Juan states, “The story of his courtship is…compared to ‘twisted little apples’ which in turn evoke the image of his gnarled knuckles, and therefore the hands that write down his thoughts.”
“Paper Pills” is connected to the first story of Anderson’s book, Winesburg, Ohio, when the narrator describes Doctor Reefy working “ceaselessly” ...
... middle of paper ...
Belasco, Susan, and Linck Johnson, eds. The Bedford Anthology of American Literature. Vol. 2.
Boston: Bedford, 2008. 857-60. Print.
Bort, Barry D. "Winesburg, Ohio: The Escape from Isolation." The Midwest Quarterly 11.4
(Summer 1970): 443-456. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Dennis
Poupard. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8
San Juan, Epifanio, Jr. "Vision and Reality: A Reconsideration of Sherwood Anderson's
Winesburg, Ohio." American Literature 35.2 (May 1963): 137-155. Rpt. in Short Story
Criticism. Ed. Jessica Bomarito and Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 91. Detroit: Gale, 2006.
Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Apr. 2011.
Phillips, William L. "THE ECLETIC DR. REEFY." American Notes & Queries 15.1 (1976): 2.
Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 8 Apr. 2011.