Option 1: Obsession vs. Communication
In the opening story of Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson gives us a specialized definition of a “grotesque”: someone who became so obsessed by pursuing (and claiming) one or more of life’s “truths” that they became warped and distorted. This sets up the framework of Anderson’s novel. After this story, we read profiles of the “grotesquely” obsessed citizens of the fictional town.
However, some prominent critics have disagreed with Anderson’s own definition of “grotesque.” In the “Introduction to Winesburg, Ohio” that has appeared in many editions of the book over the years, Malcolm Cowley argues that the grotesques, “have been distorted not, as Anderson tells us in his prologue, by their each having seized upon a single truth, but rather by their inability to express themselves.” Cowley believes this lack of communication skills explains George Willard’s role in the book: “most of the grotesques are attracted one by one to [the newspaper reporter]; they feel that he might be able to help them.”
Who makes the most sense to you regarding this issue: Anderson or Cowley—or neither, or both? Write a thesis directly answering the above question and an essay explaining and defending that thesis.
Find evidence to support your argument in:
• TWO OR MORE of the stories of Winesburg, Ohio, especially, but not restricted to, “The Book of the Grotesque.” Cite each story separately.
• TWO acceptable outside sources, as we have defined in class (essays found on a Wright College database and/or found in a book written about Winesburg, Ohio).
• If you have ANY doubt whether or not a source is acceptable for this assignment, ask me about it!
o Cowley’s essay would count as an acceptable outside source as it can be found in many critical editions of the novel.
o The essay you used in Academic Essay 1—Irving Howe’s “The Book of the Grotesque”—will not count as one of the two required outside sources. However, as long as you already have two other acceptable outside sources, you may also use Howe’s essay if you wish.