At what point in Eudora Welty's "Petrified Man" does the story turn from grotesque to gothic?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Much like the grotesques of such stories as "Revelation" and "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor, Leota and Mrs. Fletcher are grotesques--somewhere between being ridiculous and being frightening--in their moral corruption as they gossip in the beauty shop. Leota especially reveals her twisted perceptions as she tells Mrs. Fletcher about a freak show which she and her tenant, Mrs. Pike, attended. 

"Aw, well honey, talkin' about bein' pregnant an' all, you ought to see those twins in a bottle, you really owe it to yourself.,,,Their parents were first cousins and all that."

Welty's narrative turns to the Gothic at the point at which Leota tells her client Mrs. Fletcher, on her second visit to the beauty shop, about the occurrences with the Pikes and their discovery that Petrified Man is, in fact, a wanted rapist. What is Gothic is the display of anger on the part of Leota. Quoting from a site entitled Elements of the Gothic, anger is part of the vocabulary of Gothic. Such words and suggestions of these emotions as the following are used in Gothic literature:

anger, angrily, choler, enraged, furious, fury, incense, incensed, provoked, rage, raving, resentment, temper, wrath, wrathful, wrathfully

Leota is not repulsed that Mrs. Pike has once lived next to this rapist in an apartment on Toulouse Street (interesting that it is this street since Toulouse-Lautrec, the French painter, was himself deformed) and brought him breakfast; instead, she is furious that the magazine with the article about the reward was lying around the house for a month and that Mr. Petrie was "just sitting there waiting" at the nearby freak show. Later, Leota vents her anger sadistically(part of the Gothic is sadism) upon Billy Boy, shouting belittling words and issuing a serious paddling that brings all the other sadistic "ladies" in the shop to watch.

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Petrified Man

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