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Sherwood Anderson, an American novelist and short story writer, attained fame for Winesburg, Ohio (1919), an interrelated collection of stories about the loneliness and frustration of small town lives. It is to these characters, and others in his fiction that Anderson himself attached the descriptor grotesque. In the use of this word, Anderson was not alone among American authors. Two generations before him, Edgar Allan Poe entitled a collection of his short stories, "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque". But where Poe's grotesque meant strange and curious, even repulsive - monsters, by any other name - Anderson's simply signified spiritual cripples, malformed by their inability to distinguish between illusion and reality. The first in the Winesburg, Ohio collection of stories, "Hands" features one of these grotesques as its protagonist, a "poor little man beaten, pounded, frightened by the world in which he lived into something oddly beautiful". Herein lies Anderson's unique take on the grotesque. Although his characters are isolated and turned in upon themselves, they are not the stuff of satire or myth, but real persons who epitomize the spiritual deformities of all human beings.
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