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The book of the Grotesque, Hands, Paper Pills

"Twisted Apples"

In my opinion, the main purpose of the story "Paper Pills” is to reveal one more truth that opens to the reader during the whole narration. To my mind, the author manages to tell us the story in such a way that there is no teaching or moralizing, we just observe the life of a young girl who has never seen anything good in her life and has to suffer from those suitors till the moment when she met Doctor Reefy.

"It seems to her that she never wanted to leave him again”. It was such a spiritual love that she could understand him without saying a single word. In that old man she managed to see that very good side that many people had already rejected. But being together with him she could feel calm and protected. And though the girl was pregnant and finally died after having given a birth to her child, but the author still wanted to say that there was a happy end in the story because the girl found her happiness, it was just for a few months but she was lucky to have a man who loved her, to live being loved and to die with that feeling of great love and respect.

Probably the author wanted to show us once again that very truth that people tend to judge other people by their appearance but we never think that those "twisted apples” can be so much sweeter than those beautiful apples that are always so far from us and we have to make so much effort in order to at least see or touch them. But do we actually need them? And if yes, then what for? Can we trust and rely upon people who seem to be so perfect? Why do we never want to look at those ones who are near us? And that doctor was exactly a man of that kind; he was one of those "twisted apples”.

(by Luck)

"Truth of love"

The story Paper Pills by Sherwood Anderson is about two people falling in love.  The main purpose of the story is to show and illustrate the reader the great idea that if only people loved each other they would be free to look, to speak, to touch.

The main character Doctor Reefy is an old man with a white beard and a huge nose and large hands.  For a short period of his life, Doctor Reefy found someone with whom he can share all his ideas. A tall, dark girl had come to the middle-aged doctor and "it seemed to her that she never wanted to leave him again”.  Her meeting with doctor can be compared to the discovery of the sweetness of twisted apples.  More over the sweetness of these rugged apples exceeds that of the perfectly rounded apples. Once the girl had tasted the sweetness uniqueness and singleness of Doctor Reefy and his common life at the Winesburg town, she couldn't bear to taste the sickly sweetness of city life.  And the point is not how he looks like but what his inner qualities of character.

It is obvious that the writer, through this story has tried to make the reader understand that it should be our principle of life to find a sweet corner in every human being and taste it. It is the hidden and unseen goodness in a person that should be noticed and appreciated. And this is a truth of the story Paper Pills.

(by Tanya)

Thoughts, truths and grotesque

          What are you thinking about when you are lying in your bed at night, trying to fall asleep? What images appear in your mind when you are half-awake? There's a belief that at night, when the world around you is invisible in the darkness, your senses become sharpened. Being unable to see what's going on around him, a person feels everything. All the sounds are louder, all the touches – more perceptible, all the thoughts – deeper, all the ideas – exaggerated, grotesque.

          "...the figures that went before the eyes of the writer. They were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques".

           Grotesque people – who are they? In order to answer this question one should understand what is meant by the term "grotesque” and how people acquire this trait. The explanation is given below, in the very "Book of grotesque" written by an old writer.

           " the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts”. "...the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque”.

          It seems that what is called "truth” in the text is just a concept, built up of several ideas and associations – "thoughts”. Different ideas are combined in a person's mind and shape the image of certain phenomenon or quality. That's how concepts that are referred to abstract notions appear in our mind. "There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon”.

           "Truth” is a state. "Truth” is a trait. "Truth " is a way of living. "Truth” is a feeling. "Truths” are everything we come across in our life – love, friendship, boredom, vengeance, loneliness, joy... Till there is certain balance between the "truths” one faces, his life is normal. But when one "truth” prevails over others, it becomes person's obsession. If this "truth” is an idea, it becomes person's mania. If the "truth” is a feeling it becomes exaggerated. A person becomes grotesque.

           "Book of grotesque” is a book about people who devote their lives to love or hatred, other people or their own desires. It is a book about people who have chosen their own "truths”.

  (by Rina)

The tragedy of practice

The stories of Sherwood Anderson "The book of the grotesque”, "Paper pills” and "Hands” have many things in common. The plot is different, but the styles of writing are similar. We see that the author doesn’t want to show events and actions, he is concentrated on the psychology of his character, on his feelings and causes. The story describes rather short and unremarkable period of time, but the essence is much deeper. So it is up to the reader to decide how to perceive this short story. From the very beginning we feel that in subtext the greatest emotional tension is hidden so the author gives us an opportunity to make the conclusion ourselves.

All the characters in the Anderson’s stories are very reserved, they lead a secluded life, but at the same time they all are experienced. They belong to middle and low class. They are lonely, depressed and unhappy.

All these people are ordinary Americans in the post-war-period. They look empty, but each of them has his oddity. On the one hand this oddity makes them special, different from other people, maybe even better than others, but on the other hand it makes them lonely and unsociable. The theme of a little person and his unacceptance by the society is the kernel theme of all these stories. The author calls such people grotesques.

In the story "Hands”, for example, we see a grotesque of Wing Biddlebaum, who is a very reserved person because he is afraid of himself. He is influenced by past events and they can’t set him free, they are with him as his hands. The word "hands” are significant as they are repeated many times in the story. Because they are his gift but at the same time they are his torture. He changed his name from Adolf to Wing, and I think that Wing is also a symbol. His name symbolizes a part of a whole, as he is half a person. He is doomed to restrain himself, and he would never realize his potential.

This world of the grotesques is very tragic, but not because of something awful happened with them or they became real heroes, - nothing is said about it. Here we see a special kind of tragedy – the tragedy of practice, of incongruity of a person and the society.

(by Ayayulia)

"The Book of the Grotesque"

One should expect a short story to be rather emotional instead of being deep in thought. Sherwood Anderson was a writer of a particular talent: describing the insignificant he managed to emphasize the important. Emotions that are evoked by his stories are likely to transform into life-guiding thoughts and ideas that could be a rule of thumb for those who doubt. "The Book of the Grotesque” is viewed as the opening chapter for the whole collection of stories about ‘mutated’ characters – men, women, happy, desperate, striving and tranquil.

The writer, who created the theory of grotesques and the book based on it, can be considered a grotesque himself – obsessed with the idea of truths that were snatched up by people and converted into falsehood. He wants his bed to be raised to the level of the window – to see what is going on outside, but not to take part in it. He wants to be sure he is still isolated from the visible world because his true life is steadily vanishing. He is afraid of death; but this fear leads him to life. The writer feels a vivacious thing inside him that makes him long for something, makes him agitated, confused in front of the new emotions born. Thus he authors the frame of his theory.

This very first story in the collection might seem abstract and fantastic; however, it represents a way to establish a contact between the author and the reader. It sets the pitch to further narration. The reader plunges down into the world of special language – so simple that it makes us search for figurative meanings when the prime one is too plain. Its aim is to strike a match of curiosity within the reader’s mind, to perplex, to stun, to stupefy. Anderson was merely playing with the audience: "See beyond what is clear”. Every detail makes itself conspicuous when you look at it more closely.

(by MissJane)

Self-seclusion as a way of life perception

In "The Book of Grotesque” we see an old writer who is tired of his life. He has secluded himself in his not very big room with his bed, only one chair and a desk. There are only two ways of life perception for him: looking into the window and talking to a carpenter. I’ll try to make a list of my personal emotions and feelings concerned my attitude to the writer.

So let’s start. I feel indifferent, sad, depressed, tired (even exhausted), but nevertheless calm. Really calm, because, as I’ve said he is tired of life and people. His life before this bed in front of the window was like a boiling river. That’s why he has secluded himself. Therefore I feel depressed, because for me a dark room denoting all my life is really suppressive. But all this makes me calm. Because the writer is calm. For him with his previous rough life that’s the best way, the way of self-seclusion. But still he percepts life. He needs it in order not to feel dead being still alive.

I can understand writer’s emotions, but I can’t share all of them. Writer’s life in the room is calm, but is this really so? How does he write his works? Some figures from the past life come to him, in his room, surround him. After this the writer starts writing. This shows that he is not completely self-secluded.

Well, in general my emotional attitude to the story is negative. The atmosphere of writer’s life is depressive. Such life looks like a deep bog. Sometimes I’m tired of people and really want to seclude myself, but not so radically. So this particular way of life perception is not for me. Different people, different thoughts, different emotions, and different ways of life perception.

(by Seagull)

Winesburg, Ohio – is a set of short stories revealing many themes and issues, among which are life in small town America, wasted love and wasted life, fates of ordinary unknown American citizens, but the main idea is the idea of grotesque truths, which is put forward by Anderson in his first story – The book of the Grotesque”.  Everyone has his own truth, which is subjective, and he live by it paying no attention to what is going on beyond his understanding of the truth. 

Such truths have the characters of his following two stories – "Hands” and "Paper Pills”. In the first one the main character – Wing Biddlebaum - can’t cope with his hands being eager to move and his past that have been not that shining – he was accused of harassing and molesting, but was it in vain? Who knows?  He seems nuts, just as all his behavior, his life is so sad and depressive, that sometimes we believe that this is how people lived in small towns. Having no way out, he tries to conceal his hands and his personality, his longing for life and his future and the past. He is depressed, but it doesn’t justify his idea about hands being the key factor for all his problems.

Wing Biddlebaum has lived a life of a teacher but his dreams for the future haven’t come true. What is it – his grotesque truth or just a wrong life position? Now when he is 45, he works as a farmer, has no friends except the local reporter. So, in his presence he can free his hands, but only with him. The whole situation seems a grotesque, but this is exactly what Anderson is sticking to through the whole book of short stories.

(by 8davids8)

                        Having read 3 stories by Sherwood Anderson I can guess that in his works we won’t meet young and inexperienced people, who are just starting their life journeys. His main characters are mature people with a huge emotional luggage pickback. Particularly they aren’t men of luck and have a sad past. Being lonely, abandoned but at the same time thinking and willing to live, they base theirselves upon everything that ever happened to them, but not upon the things, that may happen. They will most likely be unhappy and even die unhappy, because those who are worried much about the past cannot have a bright future.

                        The story "Hands” is a bright example of this peculiarity of the author’s style. It tells us about a fat man over forty, who cannot live a normal life because of some tragic events in the past. The story takes place, as typical of the author, in small town America, Winesburg, Ohio.

                        The story "Hands” has one main plot and one flashback which is actually the climax of the story. The story is a logical emotional narrative. An old, little, fat man is described very explicitly, with much attention paid to his hands; the local’s attitude towards his hands is also mentioned. We first see Wing Biddlebaum as a piteous mature fat looser, who’s very shy, nervous, reserved and lonely, but there is also something behind his behavior – he has a skeleton in his closet, which makes him behave like this and be ashamed of his hands. The flashback, which tells us about his past, discloses the mystery of Wing Biddlebaum. We still don’t know, whether he was a latent pedophile, and didn’t even realize it, or was he just a kind teacher who wanted to teach children gently, making them feel comfortable and safe. The matter is, he still cannot understand himself, whether he was right or not. He’s actually unsure of what he had done wrong. The reader can easily see, that this dark page of his history will never let Wing live a normal life will never let him communicate and will never give rest to his hands. 

(by alex_makh)

Paper Pills

In the story "Paper pills” there are two main characters: Dr. Reefy and the girl. Dr. Reefy is a grotesque character because of his habit of filling his pockets with the scraps of paper, where "thoughts, ends of thoughts, beginnings of thoughts” were written.

And that was the reason for the girl to marry him. Having discovered the sweetness of the twisted apples she couldn’t get her mind fixed again upon the round perfect fruit.

But other people ignored the truth of Dr. Reefy. He was thought to be mad. But "Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples”. This thought may be applied to many other stories written by Anderson as well. His characters are not mad in the sense they are stupid. No, on the contrary, they have understood such deep and hidden truth that it has changed their lives completely. But others can’t accept the truth. They are not ready.

"The truth clouded the world. It became terrible and then faded away and the little thoughts began again.” The truth is not private. It is universal. And that bits of thoughts that only a few manage to grasp are just some eternal truths requiring more attention. But people are not ready. We are not ready…

                        (by Asya)

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