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Painful Awakening---an Appreciation of Epiphany Employed in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio

Author SongXiuWen
Tutor LiSi
School Wuhan University of Technology
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Epiphany Anderson Incongruity Grotesque
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
Downloads 72
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With the publication of Winesburg, Ohio in1919, Sherwood Anderson established his position as one of the outstanding writers in the history of American literature. Winesburg, Ohio is regarded as one of the earlier psychological novels in American literary history, which contains twenty-one stories about the grotesques’ experiences living in the town Winesburg. The most important narrative technique that integrates all the stories into a unity is epiphany. In terms of its philosophical and literal sense, it signifies that the claimant has found the last piece of the puzzle and now is able to see the whole picture, or has new information or experience, often insignificant by itself, that illuminates a deeper or numinous foundational frame of reference. Throughout the book, almost all the stories are concerned about the central figures’ moment of epiphany. Since Anderson attaches great importance to the psychological world, the employment of epiphany in Winesburg, Ohio provides an extensive space for him to explore those grotesques’thoughts and emotions as well as the fundamental reasons that contribute to grotesquerie.The present thesis is an attempt to analyze the novel in the light of epiphany, through which this paper endeavors to figure out the reasons that make those grotesques alienated from the social reality and the impact that the experience of epiphany imposes upon the grotesques.The thesis is divided into five parts. In Chapter One, it gives a brief introduction to the term epiphany, including its origin and development, and relevant research on epiphany at home and abroad. In Chapter Two, it will focus on the forms of epiphany applied in Winesburg, Ohio. We may find that almost all the grotesques have come to epiphanies after experiencing adventures or when reminiscing about the past. Besides, failure of communication with others is another reason that contributes to their epiphanies. In Chapter Three, the thesis mainly discusses the characteristics of epiphany. Even if epiphany as a literary device may exhibit various features when it is applied in different fictional works, unpredictability and incongruity are more conspicuous in this novel. In Chapter Four, it will concentrate on the functions of epiphany. Epiphany as the main narrative form employed in the novel plays a prominent role in coordinating the structure as well as deepening the themes. Besides, the experience of epiphany contributes to the characters’recognition of themselves and the social reality. The last part, Chapter Five, comes to a conclusion that the reasons which cause the central characters’grotesquerie lie in their incapability of adapting to the industrialization of society. Furthermore, the thesis discusses both the theoretical and realistic significance of studying the literary device epiphany employed in Winesburg, Ohio.

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