Joe Welling, an agent for the Standard Oil company, lives in Winesburg with his mother. He has a tendency to get big ideas about things in his head and then he tells people about them enthusiastically. He falls in love with Sarah King, a young woman with a dangerous brother and father. However, when they come to threaten him, Joe starts telling them about how all the fruits and vegetables in the world could be re-engineered using grasses if all the usual foods people eat were wiped out. They get swept along by the torrent of his words, like everyone else always is, and forget all about threatening him.
This story demonstrates that all the grotesques do not have to be sad or frightening. Joe is rather amusing, perhaps even endearing. Nonetheless, he is a grotesque, because he has an exaggerated interest in certain ideas, a tendency that gives him tunnel vision and limits him.
Winesburg, Ohio: Novel Summary: A Man of Ideas