The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Exploring the Grotesque: The Fiction of Stevenson and McCullers College

Over the course of several centuries, grotesque imagery has played a vital role in the arts, literature, and cultures all over the world. Attempting to attribute a clear-cut definition to the word grotesque has proven to be a challenge for historians and literary scholars since its definition has changed over time, but the role it plays in each of these subjects is essentially the same. The Grotesque serves as a means by which to stray away from conventional beauty standards, to distort and exaggerate, and combine the familiar with the unfamiliar- much like the Uncanny. Because of this, Gothic literature often incorporates grotesque imagery to further emphasize themes of chaos, madness, and other dark aspects of the human condition. This essay will examine the concept of grotesque imagery and the role it plays in challenging conventional body notions in Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and McCullers’ Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

When first introduced to the word grotesque, most people would think of its adjectival form: “very strange or ugly in a way that is not normal or natural.” (The Master’s Review). Although these are indeed common grotesque elements, they do not necessarily constitute the whole meaning...

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