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Hands Essay

1168 words - 5 pages

In Sherwood Anderson's short story, Hands, the author lets the image of the protagonist's hands to serve as the focal point of the tale. At first the reader is not told the importance of the appendages but as the story unfolds one learns that Wing Biddlebaum, previously Adolph Myers, was accused of molesting a child two decades prior. The details are intentionally left vague and by the end, the reader is left to wonder what the truth is, and more importantly, whether the truth still matters in this case.In the opening scene, the reader learns that Wing has but one friend, George Willard, a reporter for the Winesburg Eagle, which perhaps explains his curiousity towards Wing. As the two talk, ...view middle of the document...

Wing "hungered for the presence of the boy, who was the medium through which he expressed his love of man" The choice of words and phrasing by Anderson in this paragraph seems very deliberate. It's as if Wing was shouting out "Forget the testimony of the boy! I confess!" The placement of the paragraph at the end of the story is also important. These words are among the last taken in, fresh at the front of the reader's mind as he begins to deliberate the facts to reach a conclusion.On the other hand, Anderson writes that Wing's accuser "imagined unspeakable things and ... went forth to tell his dreams as fact." And it's possible the other children may have exaggerated or been coerced. Wing, being a tactile person, may have used touch to express positive reinforcement for a job well done in the classroom, not realizing his expressions could be interpreted differently. After the one alleged incident, Wing went decades without another accusation. Child molesters are generally repeat offenders; if Wing truly was guilty, why did he not seek out another victim when he arrived in Winesburg? At the end of the story, when the reader is most conflicted, Anderson paints a vivid portrait of Wing Biddlebaum, alone, kneeling to pick up crumbs and forming the image of a priest praying to God. This serves to confuse the question further and can again be interpreted dually: Wing as the innocent, pious man who worships and lives a good life, despite unfortunate circumstances; and Wing as the member of a profession notorious for producing child molestors.Anderson prompts another question when the reader learns that Wing changed his name upon leaving Pennsylvania. Originally Adolph Myers, he took his new last name, Biddlebaum, from a box of goods he saw at a freight station in eastern Ohio. His new first name came from his tendency to flutter his hands about, as if they were the wings of a bird.. The reason behind the name change is never spelled out directly, but is implied to be a safety mechanism in case word ever reached Winesburg of the "pervert from Pennsylvania." It is possible that the origins of the names Adolph (German) and Myers (Jewish)...

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