The Book of the Grotesque

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From the title of first chapter in Winesburg, Ohio, “The Book of the Grotesque”, it is clear to see Sherwood Anderson’s preoccupation with the “grotesque”. But what does “grotesque” mean in Anderson’s 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 “…

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…others: ‘he couldn’t understand people and he couldn’t make people understand him.’ (17) Life often confuses and frightens the “grotesques”. Before Enoch ‘became confused and disconcerted by the facts of life’ (18) he had companions. But whenever Enoch decided to partake in so-called normal activities, such as getting drunk or having a relationship with a woman, he ‘grew afraid and ran away’ (19). Enoch’s room best characterises him, as the narrator states that ‘The story