Ray Pearson, an older farmhand, is a quiet man. He is married to a shrewish woman whom he had to marry after he got her pregnant many years ago. They have six children. His colleague, Hal Winters, is a young, boisterous man who has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. One day in October, when they are working together in a field, Hal asks Ray what he ought to do. Ray does not answer. He cannot bring himself to say what he knows he should say. Later, after returning to his shrewish wife, Ray wants to help the other man avoid his fate. He runs after Hal, intending to tell the young man not to get tied down in a marriage. When he catches up with Hal, he cannot say what he came to say. Hal laughs, knowing what Ray was going to say, and tells him that he wants to marry Nell and have a family. Nell has not asked him to marry her, but he is ready to be married. As he walks home, Ray has a pleasant memory of evenings spent with his children, and he realizes that whatever he had planned to tell Hal would have been a lie.
After telling the interesting tale of how Hal's father, Windpeter, died, Anderson writes: "But this is not the story of Windpeter Winters nor yet of his son Hal" but "It will. be necessary to talk a little of young Hal so that you will get into the spirit of it" (204). This is one of several instances in which he tells a bit of a side story and then says that he is not telling that person's story. Anderson is drawing attention to the storyteller. This is a collection of stories about a collection of people, but there are many other stories out there that could be told. These stories may illustrate a particular set of circumstances, but other stories will illustrate other ideas or circumstances. Unlike many novels that pretend to be complete contained worlds, Anderson is drawing the reader's attention to the fact that any story could be a different story if that were what the storyteller chose to focus upon.
Winesburg, Ohio: Novel Summary: The Untold Lie