Tom Foster moved to Winesburg with his grandmother as a teenager. She cleans Banker White's house. Tom used to be the stable boy at the Whites' house, but because he is rather dreamy and irresponsible, he lost that position. Now, he does odd jobs and is quite happy. His grandmother comes regularly to clean his rented rooms, and he has a rather oddly disciplined approach to life experiences. He wants to do things, but he chooses specific experiences and then goes out and intentionally lives them. For example, having fallen in love with Helen White, he limits what he allows himself to think about her. One night, he decides he ought to try drinking to see what it feels like. He buys a bottle of whiskey and walks about a mile north of town, where he sits on a bank of grass and gets drunk. In his drunkenness, he goes and talks to George Willard about Helen. George is upset at first, but then they cement a bond between them. Tom decides that, now that he has been drunk, he will not need to try it again.
Just as those who are overly severe or overly excited are grotesques, Tom is a grotesque because he is overly dreamy and sensitive. None of the characters in this text have a balance of characteristics; instead, they are all defined by one exaggerated belief or characteristic. Tom may be pleasant to be around, but his overly sensitive nature is no more practical in the real world than Ed Handby's violence or Seth Richmond's silence.
Winesburg, Ohio: Novel Summary: Drink