Interestingly, Sherwood Anderson prefaces his stories with a chapter entitled "The Book of the Grotesque" in which he implies that a grotesque character emerges when a man or woman takes one of the many truths of life and pursues it obsessively. And, it seems that small towns, such as Winesburg, Ohio, often produce such grotesque characters because of their limited opportunities and stultifying environment. In his stories, "Mother" and "Adventure," Mrs. Willard and Alice Hindman are two such grotesques.
- Both women become trapped by their losses.
1. Elizabeth Willard has aspirations of being an actress and traveling; however,
her uneasy desire for change, for some big definite movement to her life
is stymied by her marriage to Tom Willard, working as a maid in her dilapidated motel, and she has stagnated in Winesburg. Now, in the evenings she sits in her dilapidated hotel with her adult son and watches through a window that looks out on Main Street.
2. Alice Hindman also stagnates in Winesburg as she waits for her beloved Ned Currie, who has not returned for her after promising he will marry her when he procures a good job. For a long time, Alice waits for him and his words "We will have to stick to each other now" become an echoing refrain in her heart. She, like Mrs. Willard lives an isolated and lonely life.
- Both women become obsessive about this loss of one of the essential elements of life and exhibit odd behavior.
1. In her repressed life without creative outlets, Elizabeth Willard develops
a deep unexpressed bond of sympathy [with her son] based on a girlhood dream that had long ago died.
This bond is between herself and her son George. While he is gone on his job, she goes into his room and prays that she will keep George from defeat. Even if she dies, she will keep defeat from her son, Elizabeth Willard prays. In her determination and obsession with protecting George, whom she perceives as her second self, she declares that she "will come back" from the dead, if necessary.
2. Similarly, in her obsessive yearning for Ned Currie, when Alice Hindman is alone at work, she whispers over and over, "Oh, Ned I am waiting." One day when she ventures into the woods, Alice
realized that for her the beauty and freshness of youth had passed....She did not blame Ned Currie and did not know what to blame.
For a time, Alice becomes a recluse, hugging a pillow as though it were a person.
Her imagination...played about the room. Deep within her there was something that would not be cheated by phantasies and that demanded some definite answer from life.
One night she runs outside, naked in the rain, but returns ashamed, weeping "broken-hearedly."
- They project their repression into another direction.
1. Elizabeth Williard decides to make certain that George can pursue his dream; taking out her acting make-up kit, she becomes a tall and imposing figure who comes for Tom Willare with a scissors:
As a tigress whose cub had been threatened would she appear.
2. As Alice cries she tells herself, "I will do something dreadful if I am not careful." With a force of will, Alice forces herself to
face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg.