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Winesburg , Ohio : A Book of grotesques ">Grotesques
The figures of Winesburg, Ohio usually personify a condition of psychic deformity which is the consequence of some crucial failure in their lives. Misogyny, inarticulateness, frigidity , God- infatuation , homosexuality , drunkenness?these are symptoms of their recoil from the regularities of human intercourse and sometimes of their substitute gratifications in inanimate objects , as with the unloved Alice Hindman who "because it was her own, could not bear to have anyone touch the furniture of her room." In their compulsive traits these figures find a kind of dulling peace, but as a consequence they are deprived of one of the great blessings of human health : the capacity for a variety of experience.
The world of Winesburg, populated largely by these back-street grotesques, soon begins to seem like a buried ruin of a once vigorous society , an atrophied remnant of the egalitarian moment of 19th-century America. Though many of the book's sketches are placed outdoors, its atmosphere is as stifling as a tomb. And the reiteration of the term "grotesque" is appropriate in a way Anderson could hardly have been aware of; for it was first used by Renaissance artists to describe arabesque s painted in the underground ruins, grotte, of Nero's "Golden House."
The conception of the grotesque, as actually developed in the stories, is not merely that it is an unwilled affliction but also that it is a mark of a once sentient striving. In "The Book of the Grotesque," Anderson writes: "It was the truths that made the people grotesques?the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced a falsehood ." There is a sense, as will be seen later, in which these sentences are at variance with the book's meaning, but they do suggest the significant notion that the grotesques are those who do suggest the significant notion that the grotesques are those who have sought "the truths" that disfigure them. By contrast the banal creatures who dominate the town's official life, such as Will Henderson, publisher of the paper for which George Willard works, are not even grotesques; they are simply clods. The grotesques are those whose humanity has been outraged and who to survive in Winesburg have had to suppress their wish to love. Wash Williams becomes a misogynist because his mother-in-law, hoping to reconcile him to his faithless wife, thrusts her into his presence naked; Wing Biddlebaum becomes a recluse because his wish to blend learning with affection is fatally misunderstood. Grotesqueness, then, is not merely the shield of deformity; it is also a remnant of misshapen feeling, what Dr. Reefy in "Paper Pills" calls "the sweetness of the twisted apples."
As they approach George Willard, the grotesques seek not merely the individual release of a sudden expressive outburst, but also a relation with each other that may restore them to collective harmony. They are distraught communicants in search of a ceremony, a social value, a manner of living, a lost ritual that may, by some means, re-establish a flow and exchange of emotion. Their estrangement is so extreme that they cannot turn to each other though it is each other they really need and secretly want; they turn instead to George Willard who will soon be out of the orbit of their life. The miracle that the Reverend Curtis Hartman sees and the message over which Kate Swift broods could bind one to the other, yet they both turn to George Willard who, receptive though he may wish to be, cannot understand them.
The burden which the grotesques impose on George is beyond his strength. He is not yet himself a grotesque mainly because he has not yet experienced very deeply, but for the role to which they assign him he is too absorbed in his own ambition and restlessness. The grotesques see in his difference from them the possibility of saving themselves, but actually it is the barrier to an ultimate companionship. George's adolescent receptivity to the grotesques can only give him the momentary emotional illumination described in that lovely story, "Sophistication." On the eve of his departure from Winesburg, George reaches the point "when he for the first time takes the backward view of life?. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by
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Topics Related to Winesburg, Ohio: A Book Of Grotesques
Grotesques, Art genres, Winesburg, Ohio, Folklore, Arabesque, winesburg ohio, vigorous society, 19th century america, renaissance artists, grotesques, frigidity, reiteration, inanimate objects, infatuation, falsehood, unloved, affliction, recoil, human health, remnant, variance, homosexuality, intercourse, sketches, blessings
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