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The beginning of the 20th century turned out to be an important period for the whole world in terms of state, public and social-cultural development. Worldview changes led to many noteworthy events of the subsequent period, and it included not only those countries where the most difficult process of changing formations was underway, but also those ones where new prospects for social and economic development started to emerge. In this regard, radically different processes were taking place in Georgia and the United States of America. Objective realities create different socio-economic and public situations in any country, and the peripeteias of a person’s spiritual existence always cross the boundaries of this concreteness. Along with the individual aspirations, people also have similar, common yearnings which are reflected in fiction with all the national-individual alterations.
The era of social transitions is always hard and difficult for people, no matter what stratum of society they belong to. The aim of the present paper is to show the peculiarities of the literary conceptualization of one problem accompanying the social changes on the example of the works of prominent writers of the 20th century: Mikheil Javakhishvili (1880-1937) and Sherwood Anderson (1876- 1941).
In his short stories and novels Sherwood Anderson depicted the problems of ordinary Americans at the beginning of the 20th century. As it is known, the author achieved success as a writer of psychological short stories. In his works, he shifted the emphasis from the plot structure to description of the feelings of helpless, spiritually broken people who are tired of life. In this respect, one of the most successful collections “Winesburg, Ohio” (1919) by Sherwood Anderson should be singled out. Winesburg is a fictional place inhabited by the people who are alienated from the society and one other, and they shelter themselves in the illusory world of ideas. At first glance, it seems that everything is the result of their impracticality, and not the environment in which they live.
Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” begins with the short story “The Book of Grotesques”, in which the author defines a general set of features characteristic of a certain group of people and in its manifestation he categorizes this diverse phenomenon under one name – grotesque. Anderson believes that most ordinary people are grotesque. Their souls are fragmented and broken. Those who are in such a situation can no longer find the strength in themselves to overcome obstacles and make things happen, which cannot be explained only by their personal characteristics.
The artistic face of a spiritually broken, helpless person is well known in Georgian literature, and its formation has its own literary tradition. In the literature of the beginning of the 20th century, it is characterized by the great tragedy and is used as a way of artistic depiction of an unacceptable reality.
Mikheil Javakhishvili, one of the most prominent writers of Georgian literature of the 20th century, refers to these people as “a former man”, “a superfluous man”. In one of his notable novels, “Givi Shaduri”, the prose writer not only portrays such people, but generalizes the common characteristic features of the event in this artistic face.
Anderson’s grotesque man and Javakhishvili’s former man are of the same character in its essence. They emerge during significant changes but in qualitatively different environments. Their lives are shattered, they combine the tragic and comic sides of existence. They are products of the environment.
The characters of Anderson and Javakhishili both suffer from feeling weak and helpless. It is also difficult for them to take responsibility for changing something. George Willard saves himself by running away before becoming a grotesque himself. In this way, he protests against the unacceptable environment whereas Givi Shaduri is no longer trying to change anything in his life.
Teimuraz Khevistavi, the main character of Mikheil Javakhishvili’s prophetic novel “Jakos Khiznebi” (Jaqo’s Dispossessed), has many characteristic features of Anderson’s grotesque man. Unlike Givi Shaduri, Khevistavi believes that he cannot be broken spiritually.
It is precisely because of literary conventionality, exaggeration, that these people usually have sharply defined individual characteristics, which, at first glance, leaves the impression that their personal traits and not the external factors determine their own tragedy. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the crisis caused by social and other types of circumstances creates the environment where these weak, hopeless people are formed often in the captivity of illusions. Through artistic invariants, literature reflects the influence of such factors and the diversity of specific manifestations.
A person’s fate in society is significantly determined by the nature and severity of the changes taking place in this society; In its essence, a grotesque man and a former man express one and the same phenomenon – a broken, weak being who is unable to deal with reality due to certain social and public circumstances. Since this type was formed in the background of the fiercest class conflict in Georgian literature of the 20th century, it acquired a more sarcastic and ironic coloring than Anderson’s grotesques, some of which have even been depicted as beautiful and attractive by the writer.