The prologue to Winesburg, Ohio, in which an old writer attributes their gro-tesqueness to fanaticism, oversimplifies the characters' twisted lives, but it is hardly irrelevant or at variance with the substance of the novel. The grotesques' fanatical quest for the ideal, their unwillingness to relinquish their dreams in face of the facts of experience, is at the core of all the novel's issues—its social, sexual, and mythic content—which form a philosophical whole. Yet Anderson sympathizes with his characters, for their fanaticism derives from the depths of their being and from a valid, human desire for spiritual fulfillment. The prologue also bears vitally upon the resolution of the novel's major theme— George Willard's growth into a writer; it can be said, in fact, that the prologue brings the theme to a close. For, by the end, George has undergone a transformation of character similar to that of Dr. Reefy, whom Anderson identifies with the old writer of the prologue, and thereby comes to share the old writer's vision, which is born of the grotesque but ultimately transcends it. Indeed, symbolically at least, George is the old writer. Winesburg is his story.