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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 1 - 'THE BOOK OF THE GROTESQUE'

SETTING

The story is set in the bedroom of the writer, with the writer lying on his bed and thinking out notions in his head.

CHARACTER LIST

Old man - The writer who is lying on his bed, awaiting his carpenter's entry.

Carpenter - He has been called to fix the old man's bed, by raising it.

CONFLICT

Protagonist - The old man, who is a writer, is the main character as the story revolves around his thinking pattern and his writing of 'The book of the Grotesque.' This book listed hundreds of truths in man's life.

Antagonist - There is no specific antagonist as such in this story. The carpenter has hardly any part in the story, and leaves on finishing his work on the bed.

Climax - The climax is reached when the writer decides to put down all his thoughts and notions in the form of a book.


Outcome - The outcome itself is "The book of Grotesque" as written by the writer in the story. This book is about the many truths in man's life, which convert each man in a grotesque.

THEMES

The main theme is the writer writing the book himself, which contains the concept of the grotesques. The author through the old manís book of grotesques wants the reader to understand the theme of loneliness and inter-personal relationship.

MOOD

The mood is solemn and quiet. There is hardly any dialogue, and conveys just the need for the old man to put down his notions into words.

STORY SUMMARY

The writer is described as an old man with a white mustache who has trouble looking out of his windows, which are too high. For this purpose a carpenter has been sent requested, raise the bed to a level with the window.

After some general talk, the carpenter who was a soldier in the Civil War begins reminiscing about it and finally starts to weep. After his departure, the writer lies on his bed, quite still. The writer has a dream, which is like daydreaming since he is still conscious. He sees figures, which are all grotesques. But all these figures are not horrible, some are amusing, some beautiful and one of them is a woman all drawn shapeless.

After the procession of grotesques passes his vision, the old man gets up and begins to write. This work he calls 'The book of the grotesque.' The author claims to have read the book, which is never published. The theme behind the book is that, at the beginning of the world, there were many thoughts, but no truth. Man made the truths himself, like the truth of virginity, of passion, of wealth and poverty, of thrift and profligacy and so on. Then the people come along and pick either one of these truths, or sometimes even a dozen of them.

According to the old man the writer, the moment a man tries to make the truth his, and live his life by it, he becomes a grotesque and the truth itself becomes a falsehood. The old writer himself is in danger of becoming a grotesque, if not for the fact that he didn't publish the book. And as for the carpenter, he is what is called, a common man, and so the most lovable of the grotesque in the writer's book.

Notes

This story is more of a prologue for the rest of the stories, than a separate story by itself. When the old man sits down to write, he etches out a row of 'grotesques.' These grotesques are formed by the same men, who try to pick a truth and in turn make it their truth.

In each of the short stories, one grotesque is to be found. Their lives have been distorted, disfigured and maimed because of some particular incident or event. These men have become grotesques because they were unable to communicate their problems properly to others and so remained caught in the snares of their own problems and became emotional cripples. George Willard, the common character in all the stories does attempt to draw them out, and many of them do find in him a sympathetic listener. But some of them even George fails to draw out.

Some of the Grotesques who confide in George wish him to preserve and develop his gifts of instinct and intuition. All the grotesques hope that George would speak for them and re- establish their connection with mankind.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

The Old Man - The writer is an old man seen lying on the bed, waiting for the carpenter to fix his bed. His idea of writing a book comes when he dreams of figures turning into hideous monsters. Some of these are beautiful some are amusing, while others are downright ugly. This old man understands that in the beginning there were only truths. But these truths, when snatched up by men, turn the men into monsters. All this, he puts down in his books which were never published.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The story begins with a banal description of the old man in conversation with the carpenter. The plot continues into a description of a dream of publishing of a book as a climax, which as an outcome is then formulated into a book.

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The author, through the old man's book of grotesques wants the reader to understand the various types of men that are in this world. These men have some problem, which makes them into invalids, and they wish to re-establish their identity through someone. The old man's notion is that the moment a man takes a truth for himself he calls it his own truth, and thus becomes a grotesque trying to live his life by it.

AUTHOR'S STYLE

The author has used a simple, self-explanatory style of writing for this story. The dream of the old man is his own notions appearing in his unconscious state of mind. The language is simplistic and depicts the validity of the grotesques in this world.

STUDY QUESTIONS

What do the 'grotesque' symbolize?

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