Paper Pills | Skillshare Projects



Paper Pills


I have chosen the short story 'Paper Pills', taken from Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life. The symbolism that strikes me when reading 'Paper Pills' expresses addiction to misery and the rollercoaster that is temporary relief. I plan to adapt the piece into a modern context, in order to prove the ongoing relevance of the messages it suggests.

“The condition that had brought her to him passed in an illness, but she was like one who has discovered the sweetness of the twisted apples, she could not get her mind fixed again upon the round perfect fruit that is eaten in city apartments. In the fall after the beginning of her acquaintanceship with him she married Doctor Reefy and in the following spring she died. During the winter he read to her all of the odds and ends of thoughts he had scribbled on the bits of paper. After he had read them he laughed and stuffed them away in his pockets to become round hard balls.”

Notes & Observations:

  • The 'paper pills' are representative of anti-depressants - as Doctor Reefy's process is writing out his thoughts to reach a satisfaction, only to throw them away and start again - which subsequently are symbolic of temporary relief

  • The link between imagery of apples and depression: the element of sweetness in sadness and being in love with one's misery

  • The tall girl marries Doctor Reefy because, even after her miscarriage, the idea of him keeps her in a justified state of melancholia and self pity

  • Doctor Reefy's habitual building of 'pyramids of truth' and knocking them down again is symbolic of his rejection of sentimentality, also shown in the following excerpt:
    'Sometimes, in a playful mood, old Doctor Reefy took from his pockets a handful of the paper balls and threw them at the nursery man. "That is to confound you, you blatheirng old sentamentalist," he cried, shaking with laughter.'

  • Apart from forcefully throwing his opinions at John Spaniard through the form of the rolled up paper notes, Doctor Reefy only peacefully reads his thoughts to his wife - their relationship consists of bouncing their miseries off one another

  • When his wife dies so early in their marriage, Doctor Reefy is left alone with his own thoughts for ten years and can no longer make sense of them

Having almost completed my first draft, I've drawn inspiration for my final scene from the final scene of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). Both scenes involve the lead male physically tearing down his surroundings in search for the truth. I've included a video link of the scene below:


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