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From the title of first chapter in Winesburg Ohio The Book of the Grotesque it is clear to see Sherwood Andersons preoccupation with the grotesque But what does grotesque mean in Andersons fiction The definitions of grotesque as offered in the Collins English Mini Dictionary are strangely distorted and absurd 1 However the grotesques in Winesburg Ohio are not necessarily repulsive despite their absurdity Malcolm Cowley in his introduction to Winesburg Ohio defined the grotesques as solitary persons whose lives have been distorted by their inability to express themselves 2 It is the life experiences that have made the characters in the short stories grotesques Being grotesque also means that the figures are not nor are they meant to be fully-rounded characters they are the shards of life glimpsed for a moment the debris of suffering and defeat 3 We only see the grotesques at the point in their life that they are seeking contact with the world when they are displaying the characteristics that make them grotesque David D Anderson argues that the word grotesque does not connote revulsion or disgust He compares them to the gnarled twisted apples 4 in Paper Pills which are left behind because of their surface blemishes The grotesques are rejected because they are different but their spiritual ills mean that they require more love and understanding 5 In addition to this Edwin Fussel states that the grotesques must not be thought of as necessarily unattractive The truths that lurk within them include positive or neutral properties or conditions such as the truth of virginity and the truth of passion the truth of wealth and of poverty 6 The grotesques are not malicious just confused and afraid However as Irving Howe argues the grotesques are not simply to be pitied and dismissed because at some point in their lives they have known desire have dreamt of ambition have hoped for friendship 7 They have not always been
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