“Queer” by Sherwood Anderson
Close Reading Response

This passage from Sherwood Anderson’s short story “Queer,” written in 1919, takes place in a small town environment. In the beginning of the story, after Elmer Cowley threatened George Willard to leave his store; he stands in the middle of the road thinking of how George Willard would ridicule him in town. To me this is an important part of the short story because it shows Elmer’s confusion and infuriation. He used the term “queerness” based on his isolation and others’ reactions towards him. However, he fails to understand that by using the term to “queer,” to describe him, it is not the public, but he who is labeling and judging himself. After he threatened Willard to leave the store with a gun, he constantly fears the “public opinion of Winesburg condemned the Cowley’s to queerness.”
Elmer described George Willard as “the spirit of the town” because he is a reporter who could use his profession to influence Winesburg’s opinion on the Cowleys. His state of mind accentuates his frustration and narrow thinking, which is what Anderson, calls a grotesque. Anderson called them grotesques because he wanted to emphasize the reality of their inability to better their lives. To me the words “condemned” and “queerness” expresses how trapped and omitted he feels in a small town because of loneliness and lack of human contact. Thus, through Anderson’s word choice and details, his writing allows readers to understand the characters inner life and how easily their small town lives can affect their emotions and behavior.