The Conflict In The Short Story
“Hands” Essay, Research Paper
Sherwood Anderson, is a story that seems to be stripped of
sentimentality, yet conveys emotion. Anderson tells the somber story
of a misunderstood and wrongfully accused man. The protagonist, Wing
Biddlebaum, failed to communicate his true self. His inner desires
were repressed because conventions and tradition distorted and
before, the central character in ?Hands? is Wing Biddlebaum. He is
clearly a round character because he has more than one side to his
personality throughout the story. Wing is dynamic because he makes a
change from a kind, outgoing, enthusiastic teacher to a withdrawn,
frightened person. For as much as Wing is described, there are still
many aspects of his character that seem left out. Perhaps this is for
previously known as Adolph Meyers, is a teacher. He ?was meant by
nature to be a rare teacher of youth. He was one of those rare,
little-understood men who rule by a power so gentle that it passes as
a lovable weakness.? Since his demeanor is not of the stereotypical
man, macho and strong, teaching with force or fear, people are
suspicious of him. ?Hands? was written in 1919, and yet today in 2000
(81 years later) suspicion surrounding a man like Adolph Meyers might
doubts already existed about Meyers, it was easy for the Pennsylvania
townspeople to believe the ?unspeakable? accusations a ?half-witted
boy? made against Meyers. The narrator tells the reader that these
accusations are false, not just bluntly, but also through the
innocence with which Adolph is described.
It is hard to
believe that Meyers could hurt anyone, let alone a student, someone
whose dreams he was trying to encourage. As might happen in reality,
angry men and fathers with lanterns drove Adolph Meyers from the
fictional town. He was saved from hanging because even as he was cast
in this evil light, he ?touched their hearts.? This illustrates
perhaps better than any other example the extent of the main
character?s ability to communicate his feelings without force. He was
not saved because he fought back, but rather he was so small, white
incident, the newly named Wing Biddlebaum is consumed with an emotion
related to his hands, which is hard to distinguish. Although the
reader is clearly informed that Biddlebaum is not guilty of the
accusations made against him, it is hard to clarify whether he
perceives his hands as a symbol of his perceived guilt, or a
manifestation of his fears. Both are probably true; however, the
narrator gives the latter more attention. There are many references
to Wing?s fear: ?Their [the hands] restless activity, like unto the
beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird,? ?The slender expressive
fingers, forever active, forever striving to conceal themselves in
his pockets or behind his back . . .? ?he raised the hands to caress
the boy and then a look swept over his face . . .? ect.
Biddlebaum does not know why he was driven out of the Pennsylvania
town and almost killed. He does, however, sense that his hands must
be to blame. It is not surprising, then, that his fears would
manifest in his fidgeting or hiding of hands. It is almost as though
without his hands, his dreams cannot be expressed or shared. Again,
the reader is struck with the sadness and overwhelming helplessness
that the main character must feel in everyday life.
Wing is a very
sad man. False accusations aside, he has always been misunderstood.
Even before the tragedy, he was looked upon with skepticism. His
occupation of teaching young boys was one that would have generally
been carried out by a female. People could not understand why a male
would choose such a life. It must have been depressing to always be
misread. An onlooker not tainted with bias or stereotypes could
easily see that it was the evil in their own hearts that made the
townspeople assume evil existed in Wing Biddlebaum. Without this
benefit, the protagonist, far from evil, must have felt great pain.
It seems that
his only joy in life is conversations with a secondary character,
George Willard. In these conversations, Wing is able to do what he
loves: teach. His discussions with George are the only times that
Wing seems able to lose some of his timidity. It is almost as if Mr.
Biddlebaum has regressed to the days before the tragedy of his being
wrongfully accused, and has allowed himself to weave dreams again.
is the son of the proprietor of the new Willard House. He is also a
reporter for the local newspaper. His age is unstated, but one might
guess that he is young (18-20 years) enough not to consider
Biddlebaum a peer and also to grant him some respect as a person
whose advice is valued. Likely, there is more to George Willard than
portrayed in the story; however, he does seem fairly flat. The
realization that Wing Biddlebaum has a problem with his hands is
probably not considered a ?fundamental change,? so George would also
be a static character.
George is very
curious about Wing?s hands? ?strange activity and their inclination.?
The only thing that keeps George from bringing up the subject is his
growing respect for Wing. By the end of the story, George realizes
that somehow Wing?s hands are the reason for his fear of himself and
others. From this the reader could gather that George is intuitive.
He does not want to know the truth about Wing?s hands. Perhaps his
intuitiveness allowed him to sense that the story of Wing?s hands was
It seems that
George is also concerned with being like the other townspeople. At
least the protagonist believed that George was destroying himself by
trying to imitate the townspeople. It is also revealed that George
has the ability to dream, but was afraid to do so. The price of these
dreams would appear to be non-conformity: something that the reader
has already seen punished in Wing.
It has already
been established that Wing Biddlebaum feared society in general.
Therefore, it is difficult to explain why Wing would speak to someone
who belonged to the world that had hurt him, the world that he was
not a member of. The only conclusion, which might be gathered, is
that Wing?s love for teaching was so great that he could not restrain
himself from teaching a person who was willing to listen. This might
suggest that Wing did not become completely cynical and untrusting
after his experience. Furthermore, this would suggest that he had a
large capacity to forgive.
The reader is
not informed about how the two characters met. If Wing had initiated
the relationship, then this would have shown a great deal of
recovery. However, the last scene of the story, in which only
darkness allowed his hands to become calm, clearly signifies that he
has not overcome his fear. In any case, the origin of their
relationship caused a great deal of wonder.
in some respects takes the role of a martyr. Never is there an
indication in the short story ?Hands? of hatred or bitterness coming
from Wing. It is probably safe to say that Wing?s lack of bitterness
is at least rare, if not unheard of. He shows only sadness and fear.
He shows no anger towards others. Although he fears people, he does
not display hostility towards them. He does not fight back. He simply
accepts his fate.
faces many hardships in ?Hands.? Not only does he fight against his
own fears, but also he fights against society. Unfortunately, there
is no resolution of these conflicts. The only assurance seems to be
that the struggles will remain.
... the English-speaking majority. This sort of conflict is also common in ... legends, fairy tales, anecdotes, shortstories, etc. In addition, proverbs, riddles, ... the interactions between the doctor and the protagonist. In particular, the ways in which thestory ...
... you may keep in your possession for the duration of theconflict. I did not ... ’s been called to the bar”. – “What sort of a bar?”- “Thesort you’re always ... His Soul”, “The Selfish Giant”(or Maugham’s story “The Ant and the Grasshopper”). Search ...
... replaced at the cultural and administrative levels too. Inshort, Saxon ... story written inthe Romance language, i.e. in this case, French]. An important group of storiesin ... conflict known as the Inkhorn Controversy, which died down inthe course of the ...
... driving GOOD lawyer inthe family to help you to sort this intruder ... - and we are rough cut, conflict free ones to boot! 4:30 ... or just come for the SUMNER; All thestories are HILARIOUS,ROCKY ... , Rock Biter here from the Neverending story. Was wondering if you ...
... business; - basic direction of a strategy, inshort; - firm’s performance guiding lines, etc ... their story to you, you risk polarizing their positions. The person inconflict has ... with short firm handshake in this part of the world, inthe Middle East the hand ...