Alice Hindman had lived in Winesburg all of her life. When she was sixteen and attractive, she dated Ned Currie, a man older than she who worked at the Winesburg Eagle before George Willard's time. He would come see her daily. When he planned to move to Cleveland and look for a job on a city newspaper, Alice, overcome by the excitement of their love, suggested that she go as well. She did not wish him to marry her yet as the expense would be too great, but she hoped they could live together and both work. Ned was touched and decided he would rather care for Alice properly as his wife when he was able than to make her his mistress. The night before Ned left,he and Alice went for a drive. The night was so overwhelming to the couple that Ned and Alice became lovers even though Ned had intended to protect her and wait. Upon leaving her, Ned told Alice that no matter what happened, they would have to stick together.
For awhile, Ned was lonely in Cleveland and unsuccessful in finding a job. He wrote to Alice constantly. He then moved to Chicago, made friends, met a woman whom he liked, and forgot about Alice. Alice, though, could not forget about Ned. At twenty-two, she took a job at Winney's Dry Goods Store soon after her father had died in order to save money and keep herself busy. Even when she was beginning to doubt Ned's return, Alice knew she could never give her body to anyone else after the night they had shared before Ned left. In her loneliness, she would imagine things to say to Ned and reasons to save her money for him. Ned's last words echoed in her mind, causing Alice to weep. At the age of twenty-five, Alice's mother remarried, further isolating Alice in her loneliness. Alice realized that she would become peculiar if she stayed so much from people so she joined the Winesburg Methodist Church and The Epworth League. When a middle-aged man, Will Hurley, offered to walk her home from a prayer meeting, she did not protest although her loyalty remained with Ned. She needed company and affection.
By the time Alice reached twenty-seven, when George Willard was only a boy, she was overcome by restlessness. She would arrange her bed so that it appeared as a person lay within it. One night, she arrived home to find the house empty. She undressed in her dark room. Standing by the window naked, she was possessed by a strange desire and ran outside. Alice had not felt so young in years and she wished to run through the streets naked. She wanted to make contact with another lonely human so she cried out to an old man walking past. He was partially deaf and did not hear her clearly. In her embarrassment, she fell to the ground, trembling. After he had gone, Alice crawled back to her house and into her room and wept. In anguish, Alice wondered what was wrong with her. She realized that even people in Winesburg must live and die alone.
Alice, paralleling the struggles of the other grotesque characters we have encountered, is very quiet on the exterior while a passion boils underneath. She is an illustration symbolizing Anderson's greater idea and the theories set forth by the old writer of the prologue. Alice Hindman is limited by life denying truths and guilty of allowing them to run her life. She believes in love and tradition absolutely. Though an honorable effort, the narrator himself condemns Alice for her narrowsightedness in dealing with her loneliness. He states, "Šfor all of her willingness to support herself [Alice] could not understand the growing modern idea of a woman's owning herself and giving and taking for her own ends in life." Alice's blindness to the changing social mores limits her capacity to progress forward in life. She becomes consumed instead by the idea of herself and her memories. If she cannot have Ned, she will have no other.
This extremity of emotion brings her downfall. Her tendency to limit her...