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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 2 - 'HANDS' (continued)


This touching story exposes the vile and cruel thinking of most people and their reactions to the pure and innocent behavior of a gentle schoolteacher. Wing Biddlebaum, who has been living for so many years in Winesburg, had never disclosed himself and his past to anybody. His covert life is mercifully left unquestioned in Winesburg, though; George Willard his only friend is often very curious about it.

Wing Biddlebaum comes across as a nervous old man, whom even the children scoff at. When a small boy cruelly tells him to comb his hair, 'its falling into your eyes', he actually raises his hands to his bald head. This is an exposure of childish cruelty, which is all the more distressful, since Biddlebaum has always had a love for children.

George's curiosity about Biddlebaum's past is strong yet he never attempts to probe into it. The reader is given a glimpse into his mental frame when he unconsciously caresses George while deep in discussions with him. The instant he realizes it, he recoils and retreats back into himself.

The actual truth behind his restless hands, which are now contained as much as possible, is stark and chilling. The insidious insinuation attributed to his innocent gestures depicts the squalor of the human mind. The veneer of perversion given to his pure actions is pathetic.

Adolph Myers’ (‘wings’) unusual habit of touching exploring and caressing with his hands has actually no perversity behind them. It is just his instinctive efforts to "carry a dream into the young minds." However, once the seed of doubt is sown, all the shadowing notions of the men are galvanized into action, and thus the ostracisation of Adolph.

Wing Biddlebaum has thus been portrayed as an outcast, who survives on the crumbs, doled out by society.

The story is a depiction of the utter degradation of the modern society, which, though it is educated in the nuances of the human personality, is still unable to differentiate between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad. People clothe themselves with the veneer of morality and decency, but are unable to differentiate between the right and the wrong the good and the bad. People clothe themselves with the veneer of morality and decency, but are unable to comprehend the honesty and purity of another human being.

This story also introduces to the reader, the character of George Willard who reappears in some of the other stories in the book. His character, in its depths, is not yet revealed, though he does come across as an honest, upright young man, with an open view towards all.


Wing Biddlebaum - His real name is Adolph Myers, but he has acquired this new name because of his hands, which resemble the restless beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird. Wing was earlier a teacher in a school, in a town in Pennsylvania, who loved his students deeply and wished them to acquire learning and success in life. But his involuntary use of his hands over his students faces and shoulders, cast aspersions on his gentility, and he was ousted out of the school. A pained and humiliated man, Wing never again displayed his hands to anyone for fears of getting caught in such a situation again.

George Willard - George is the reporter on the Winesburg Eagle. A friendship, good-natured young lad, he felt sympathy for wing and wished he would unburden his soul to him. Wing almost does so, since he really liked George, but restrains himself in times George realizes that Wing has a terrible past, which he doesn't want anyone to know.


The story begins with the present, with Wing living a quiet, unnoticed life at Winesburg. The story then reverts to his past, and the humiliating and distressing events of his past are revealed to the reader. To the villager and to George, however, Wing doesn't divulge his shameful past, and the story ends with a picture of wing, alone in his room, his nervous expressive finger, flashing in the light, as he goes about his work.


Main theme - Slander: The theme of love, though twisted in to an obscenity by the students has been portrayed. The writer wishes to show Wing as a simple-minded scholar, caught in the vortex of ugly rumors and insinuations, a victim of chance and slander. He wishes the reader to gather the concept that man is often baselessly slandered for no wrongdoing and has to face the consequences for the rest of his life, hiding as a fugitive.


How would you understand the inexplicable behavior of Wing Biddlebaum?

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