The word grotesque is an oxymoron in itself.It means beautiful ugly.How a person can have both of these adjectives is the theme of Winesburg, Ohio written by Sherwood Anderson.
His characters become grotesque by holding onto one truth that make them distorted but unknowingly make them beautiful simultaneously. Anderson uses the motif of isolation on Seth Richmond, the Stranger and Tandy to develop their grotesqueness by making the characters’ isolation be the reason why they hold onto one truth causing their grotesqueness.
On the other hand, the author ses biblical allusion to help clarify the truth Jesse Bentley lives by that causes his grotesqueness. Anderson uses the motif of isolation in order to enhance the grotesqueness of Seth Richmond, as the character’s self-imposed isolation causes his grotesqueness. Seth Richmond grows up with his mother, Virginia Richmond who does not know how to discipline him and a deceased father. Seth only stares at his mother apathetically when she scolds him that causes his mother to withdraw from her displeasure.
Seth also only shows indifference in things other boys engage in and finds him different rom others, since he does not feel the same emotions people would usually feel. Hence, he holds onto the truth that he does not belong in the town and “he [wishes] that he himself [be] stirred by something” (133). Seth’s self-imposed isolation is what causes his grotesqueness. He thinks Just because he doesn’t have the same interest as the others and is not “stirred by something” makes him an outcast and unlike. When in fact, the people of Winesburg admire him because he comes off as a passionate and mature man.
Nevertheless, Seth does not acknowledge the people’s houghts because he lives by his truth that he does not fit in Winesburg because he is indifferent about things the people our engaged in. For this reason, he is distorted and grotesque for believing one truth and not accepting the others’ truths. Later, Seth fancies a girl named Helen but with him imposing that he does not belong in the town and wants to leave, he soon drives away Helen and begins to think that the reason of her departure is because of his truth that he is an outcast.
When in reality, Helen departs to avoid further sentiment because Seth tells her that it was their last ime they’ll see each other. Nonetheless, He continues to say, “when it comes to loving someone, it wont never be [him]. It’ll be… someone who talks a lot – someone like that George Willard” (142). Seth continues to hold onto his truth and imposes that he needs be isolated further more from the town and needs to leave Winesburg. This eventually drives Helen away, but Seth believes it is because of his social skills.
Hence, he becomes Jealous of George Willard and wants to be like him because he thinks that if he were George, Helen would not have left him. However, George Willard is not that social either, Seth assumes he is a social butterfly because he is a reporter but as a matter of fact he only listens well. Seth is grotesque because he believes in a truth that is not absolute. He believes that Helen left him because he is not as social as George Willard, when it is not the case. He is grotesque tor believing a truth about George Willard that is not true.
The author also uses the motif of isolation to develop the grotesqueness of the Stranger and Tandy, as the characters’ isolation causes them to hold onto one truth aking them grotesque. Tandy Hard lives only with her father, Tom Hard because her mother is dead. Tom Hard spends most of his time being an atheist, wrecking the ideas and belief that God exists causing his daughter to be neglected. Not having anyone to nurture her and guide her, she becomes lost and continues to live without an identity, as implied by the author when he does not mention her real name until she the stranger names her Tandy.
The stranger comes to Winesburg, Ohio in order to cure his alcohol addiction and addiction to an image of a lover. He claims that his over is named Tandy who has “the quality of being strong to be loved,” and the only reason he is not with her is because “she did not come in [his] time” (145). As a result of the stranger being lone and isolated for not having a lover, he holds onto the truth that his lover is named Tandy and she was not born in his time for the stranger does not find her yet.
His reasoning makes him distorted because he continues to believe the truth that there is a Tandy that was not born at his time and not acknowledge the truth that there might not be any Tandy at all. In addition, his isolation also makes im grotesque because it makes him live by the truth that his lover is someone like Tandy and does not acknowledge the truth that there are other women out there that can be his potential lovers without necessarily having the same quality as Tandy.
Nonetheless, the stranger imposes on the daughter that she should be Tandy and she should be strong and brave in order to beloved. Consequently, the daughter not having an identity starts to incline on the idea of Tandy. When her father calls her, she retaliates and says, “[she] want[s] to be called Tandy – Tandy Hard” (146). After he daughter’s statement demanding she wants to be called Tandy, it is implied that she will continue to live as Tandy. For that reason, the daughter is grotesque for not accepting that she can have her own truth to live by and not Just the truth of the stranger.
However, the only reason she holds onto the stranger’s truth is because she does not acquire her own identity from the isolation and lack of nurture she gets from her father. Therefore, her isolation because of the lack of guidance from her father causes her to live by another person’s truth distorting her and making her rotesque. Anderson uses biblical allusion to help clear up the truth Jesse Bentley lives by creating his grotesqueness. Jesse Bentley inherits a colossal amount of land from his dead father and brothers.
Before inheriting the land Jesse Bentley studied to be a minister, so returning home he is filled with religious thoughts. Hence, he begins to think that his farm is an empire of God and thinks that his lands need to be protected from “the hands of the Philistines” (73). As a man who studied to be a minister, it is understandable to return with the words of God. However, Jesse Bentley ssociating his life to the Bible and calling his neighbors Philistines is Just absurd and twisted.
He lives by the truth that his life is parallel with Jesse’s life from the Bible, and even goes to the extent of calling his neighbors Philistines implying that they are enemies. For this reason, Jesse Bentley is grotesque because he lives by the truth that his neighbors are Philistines like in the Bible, causing his distortion and grotesqueness because his truth is not really true. As I said before, Jesse Bentley commences to equate his life to the Jesse of the Old Testament. The Jesse from the Old Testament is known as Christ’s key ancestor.
As a result, Bentley prays to God that his wife conceives a son that can be named David in order for the lineage to start. However, his wife conceives a girl, Louise that gives birth to a son named David. Jesse Bentley then starts to get obsessive about contacting God through his grandson David. He thinks that through David they “will see the beauty and glory of God” (100), so he brings a sheep to sacrifice and uses David as a host in the forest. Jesse Bentley holds onto the truth that he can be a significant person like the Jesse from the Old Testament through his grandson.
He strongly believes that his life is parallel to the life of the Bible’s Jesse when it is not the case. In addition, the fact that he still tries to equate his life into the bible when there’s a generation gap and the story that he is reenacting is Abraham and Isaac and not Jesse and David shows that he is so desperate to communicate with God and feel significant that it makes him distorted and grotesque. Furthermore, because Jesse Bentley is blinded by his want to be significant and the truth that he can communicate with God, he does not accept the ruth that God may not exist making him grotesque.
In conclusion, the characters’ isolation leads them to live by one truth that enhances their grotesqueness. Additionally, the author uses biblical allusion to explain and clarify the truths the characters’ hold onto that makes them grotesque. In some way, the characters’ or in general people’s grotesqueness can be seen as beautiful. People’s faith in a certain truth can be considered beautiful and no matter how distorted it makes them seem, it’s the fact that people stand on their ground and fght for what they believe in, makes them admirable.