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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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     Symbolism is very crucial in literature, especially in short fiction. In the short story “Hands,” by Sherwood Anderson, Anderson gives a perfect example of symbolism. In the story “Hands,” Anderson uses symbolism of the hands of Wing Biddlebaum to show the meaning of the story. Anderson explores the theme of isolation and loneliness, through the symbolization of Wing’s hands. By Anderson writing “Hands” is showing how the protagonist\' hands symbolizes the many ways of him feeling isolated and lonely in Ohio.

         The main character, Wing Biddlebaum, formally known as Adolph Myers, was accused of inappropriately touching the young boys he used to teach in a town in Pennsylvania. After the fathers of the young boys found out what happen, he was nearly lynched, and forced out of town and into Ohio, where he began a new life as a berry picker. “The Book of the Grotesque\" A collection of short stories, including the story “Hands.” From \"The Book of the Grotesque,\" Anderson wrote many stories relating to “Hands,” \"Grotesques” Anderson defined the term as lonely, trapped and isolated. That is exactly what and how Wing Biddlebaum feels. Wing Biddlebaum, “a fat little old man,” (Anderson 1) who lives in a small isolated townhouse in Winesburg “Did not think of himself as in any way a part of the life of the town where he had lived for twenty years.” (Anderson 1) Wing has put his self in isolation from others for almost twenty years, although, he lived there for a very long time, he still does not think himself a part of the town. Anderson is showing the significance of Wing’s loneliness and isolation.

     Wing keeps his self away from the rest of the town because he does not want the people of Winnesburg to know about his past, and the tittle that was brought against his name. However, Anderson doesn’t make it clear enough to us readers if Wing did or didn’t touch his students inappropriately, because the accusation came from a “half-witten” boy. But to Wing, accusations or not, he still didn’t want the people of Winesburg to know or even question his past. “The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hand. “ (Anderson 2) The first symbolization Anderson shows is obliviously Wing’s hands, and how it resulted to Wing’s harsh life now resulting him in being lonely. DR B. Mohan B. Srikala from S.V. College of Engineering and Technology states, “The most impressive and the most recurrent theme of Anderson which appears virtually in all his works and forms their ground bass is human loneliness and isolation and all the feelings that accompany it. Anderson explores this theme with particular reference to the American society of his times. However, experience of loneliness is as old as man and known to mankind from times immemorial.”

      Anderson says, “Wing Biddlebaum talked much with his hands” (Anderson 2). Wing always expressed himself by talking with his hands. His hands symbolize two things: First, his horrible past and second, him being trapped in his pathetic present. A former school teacher accused of caressing and foundling his students, and his pathetic present, a fat old man that now trapped living in an isolated area as a berry picker. Wing’s hands symbolize everything that is quite unusual about him. Those are his “distinguishing feature.” (Anderson 1) He is known for his hands when it comes to picking up berries, can pick about “as high as a hundred and forty quarts of strawberries in a day.” (Anderson 2) However, his hands is the cause of his downfall to his now bitter, lonely life. According to Dr. Ali Mohammed Segar “Anderson\'s major work is Winesburg, Ohio.” It is also considered his great book of loneliness; it has an artistic unity not possessed by any of his other works, partly because of this central theme linking the stories, and partly through the character of Wing. Wing grows into maturity by discovering his own loneliness and that of the people around him. Anderson\'s early stress in the book is on the isolation which his characters experienced in the small town mid – West America.” Most importantly, Wing’s hands symbolize his isolation him being lonely and his trapped feeling in life.  

       A next symbolization that Anderson shows in the story of how Wing feeling trapped and isolated because of his hands is, sexuality. According to Andrew Corey Yerkes from \"Strange Fevers, Burning Within”: The Neurology of Winesburg, Ohio “Anderson at his word, we can reconsider Winesburg, Ohio as an exploration of the neurological basis of consciousness. Although it was written during a period in which culture was emphasized, in many disciplines, as the most important determinant of human consciousness, Winesburg, Ohio—with its grotesque, its meditations on the unsuitability of the human mind for the conditions of modernity, and sexuality, and the involuntary impulses of its characters—gestures at the physical components of the brain that create consciousness.” Homosexuality wasn’t nearly a thing back then in the early 1900 hundreds. It wasn’t unusual, as if it didn’t exist. But yet, Anderson doesn’t make it clear enough in the story if Wing was battling with his sexuality. But readers may make a conclusion that Wing may have some interest for the opposite sex, due to his relationship with George, the local news reporter. Even though Wing, was completely isolated from the rest of the town, he had a connection with George. Anderson shows this when he says, “Slowly they stole forth and lay upon George Willard’s shoulders” (Anderson 3).  It’s clear that Wing may have interest in George but he can’t do anything about those feelings. He has to hide them, because Wing knows what will happen if those feelings came into place. “Although he still hungered for the presence of the boy, who was the medium through which he expressed his love of man, the hunger became again a part of his loneliness and his waiting.” (Anderson 3) Wing is feeling a whole bunch of emotions right now, he many have some interest for the opposite sex, but again those feelings was unusual around that time, therefore, he doesn’t know what to do with those feelings, or even who to talk to. If he had talked to George or anybody else about the way he was feeling, who knows what would have happen to him.  So him being the only have those feelings, already makes him isolated, and feeling lonely from the rest of the world. Anderson throws in much symbolization to show how Wing is lonely, isolated and trapped because of his hands; Anderson also throws in a little irony in the story as well. Before becoming Wing, Adolph was a teacher, a “school master.” As a teacher, students expect you to be joyful, outgoing full of excitement, which Adolph was before his “excitement of his hands” was taken place. Now that Adolph is now Wing, he can’t be that person he once was. He wishes to be, but he can’t. Because of his hands. His hands put him where he is in life now.

    Sherwood Anderson\'s short story, “Hands,” shows a vast transition in Wing’s life from being adored school teacher, to his now present life, as a berry picker, because of the associations against him. Anderson shows the great transition of him being isolated and lonely through symbolization of his hands.

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