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Rachel Luria: It’s Not as Cold Here as it Sounds: Desire and Human Connections in Dan Clowes’ Ice Haven and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio

Though different in form and written decades apart, Daniel Clowes’ Ice Haven and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio speak to each other across the divide and engage in a complicated and complicating debate about the nature of American identity and human frailty. Set in typical, perhaps even stereotypical, American small towns, the narratives spinning out from one central character—in both cases, the towns’ aspiring writers—the stories bear striking resemblances, though offer different conclusions. Both use grotesque characters to magnify and examine the conflict between sexual desire and emotional intimacy and how small-town American culture can either aid in or thwart connection.

In Anderson’s work, the writer is the only one who can escape, the one who can make sense of the story, and bring order to the chaos of daily life. For Clowes, the writer also holds the key to life’s mysteries but he is a criminal, a pathetic and delusional misanthrope with no gift for insight. Though, through the satirical use of the character Harry Naybors, Clowes resists critical interpretation, Ice Haven offers rich material for exploration. This paper explores the intersections between Winesburg, Ohio and Ice Haven and their use of the grotesque to comment on sex, desire, and the possibility of real human connection.