Doctor Reefy, an old man with a white beard, once had a wife, but she died young. Now he lives alone and has become eccentric; he has worn one suit of clothes for ten years, which is now frayed at the sleeves and has holes at the knees and elbows. He has only one friend in the town, another old man.
Doctor Reefy met his wife when she was a patient. A lover had made her pregnant, but she lost the child. She and the doctor fell in love even though she was younger than he, and he showed her how sweet gnarled apples can be. He shared with her the thoughts that he wrote down on little pieces of paper. Now that she is gone, he has no one to share the thoughts with. They sit in his pockets till they become little balls of paper, then he throws them away.
Deprived of his attempt to connect with another person, the doctor spends his life creating truths that are then transformed into hard little balls. Truths are not magnificent, high-flown ideas once they are written down, because they then become mere scraps of paper. Truth is only beautiful when lived, which is what the doctor did with his wife. Without the human connection, they are meaningless.
Winesburg, Ohio: Novel Summary: Paper Pills