Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

by

Sherwood Anderson

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Grotesque Term Analysis

A strange or disturbing figure whose appearance or character traits evoke both sympathy and disgust. Grotesque figures appear widely in classical mythology, art, and architecture, as well as Gothic literature, and are often used to explore dark and painful themes. Many of the characters in Winesburg, Ohio seem to be the real-life, humanized versions of the demonic grotesques that appear in the writer’s “The Book of the Grotesque.” Wing Biddlebaum’s hands, Doctor Reefy’s similarity to a twisted apple, and Elizabeth Willard’s shabby appearance are all examples of grotesque qualities that are simultaneously off-putting and sympathy-evoking.

Grotesque Quotes in Winesburg, Ohio

The Winesburg, Ohio quotes below are all either spoken by Grotesque or refer to Grotesque. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age, Independence, and Manhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Winesburg, Ohio published in 1993.
1. The Book of the Grotesque Quotes

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that 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 became a falsehood.

Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
2. Hands Quotes

In Winesburg the hands had attracted attention merely because of their activity. With them Wing Biddlebaum had picked as high as a hundred and forty quarts of strawberries in a day. They became his distinguishing feature, the source of his fame. And they made more grotesque an already grotesque and elusive individuality.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Wing Biddlebaum / Adolph Meyers
Related Symbols: Hands
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
3. Paper Pills Quotes

Little pyramids of truth he erected and after erecting knocked them down again that he might have the truths to erect other pyramids.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Doctor Reefy
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
11. A Man of Ideas Quotes

“Let’s take decay. Now what is decay? It’s fire. It burns up wood and other things…This sidewalk here and this feed store, the trees down the street there—they’re all on fire. They’re burning up. Decay you see is always going on…The world is on fire. Start your pieces in the paper that way. Just say in big letters ‘The World is On Fire.’ That will make ‘em look up.”

Related Characters: Joe Welling (speaker), George Willard, Doctor Parcival, Wash Williams
Page Number: 90-91
Explanation and Analysis:
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Grotesque Term Timeline in Winesburg, Ohio

The timeline below shows where the term Grotesque appears in Winesburg, Ohio. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. The Book of the Grotesque
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...a dreamlike vision in which the youthful presence within him is leading a procession of grotesque figures in front of him. The vision lasts for an hour, with the grotesques varying... (full context)
Faith, Fate, and Meaning Theme Icon
...themselves totally to a truth, becomes possessed by it to the point of becoming a grotesque, and each truth thus becomes a falsehood. The narrator points out the irony of the... (full context)
2. Hands
Alienation Theme Icon
...volumes of strawberries as a field laborer. The narrator notes that Wing’s hands made him grotesque yet somewhat endearing to the townspeople. George is curious about the hands, sensing that there... (full context)