There is a time in the life of every boy when he
for the first time takes the backward view of life.
Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the
line into manhood. The boy is walking through the
street of his town. He is the king of the future and
of the figure he will cut in the world.
Ambitions and regrets awake within him.
Suddenly something happens; he stops under a
tree and waits as for a voice calling his name.
Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness;
the voice outside of himself whisper a message
concerning the limitations of life.
From being quite sure of himself and his future
he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative
boy a door is torn open and for the first time he looks
out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched
in procession before him, the countless figures of men
who before his time have come out of
nothingness into the world, lived their lives
and again disappeared into nothingness.
The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy.
With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf
blown by the wind through the streets of his village.
He knows that in spite of all the stout
talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty,
a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like
corn to wilt in the sun. He shivers and looks
eagerly about. The eighteen years he has lived seem
but a moment, a breathing space in the long march of humanity.
Already he hears death calling.
With all his heart he wants to come close to some other human,
touch someone with his hands, be touched by the
hand of another. If he prefers that other to be a
woman, that is because he believes that a woman
will be gentle, that she will understand.
He wants, most of all, understanding.
-Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio