The Stories Of Sherwood Anderson’S Winesburg, Ohio Are

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The stories of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio are an intersecting group of tales that emphasize the grotesque over a wide spectrum. While some of Anderson’s stories focus upon the physical grotesque, other characterizations demonstrate the ability of the human psyche to exemplify the grotesque. Such is the case with Anderson’s short story “Hands.” “Hands” is a story of society’s tendency to marginalize those who can be categorized as grotesque, or those who simply refuse categorization entirely. Anderson’s tale of social isolation utilizes the image of the hands to symbolize the emotional expression of Wing Biddlebaum in order to drive an implicit theme that emotional internalization and social isolation is a veritable prison.
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Nevertheless, Wing is still plagued by doubts about his hands and is “striving to conceal” them even in the fields. Anderson writes, “The hands alarmed their owner. He wanted to keep them hidden away and looked with amazement at the quiet inexpressive hands of other men who worked beside him in the fields, or passed, driving sleepy teams on country roads” (Anderson 4). Another recurring image is Wing’s tendency to hide his hands in his pockets. This image occurs several times over the duration of Anderson’s story. In another instance Anderson writes, “Wing Biddlebaum talked much with his hands. The slender expressive fingers, forever active, forever striving to conceal themselves in his pockets or behind his back, came forth and became the piston rods of his machinery of expression” (Anderson 3). This image is repeated again when Wing is conversing with George. Wing is horrified by the sight of his own hands and “With a convulsive movement of his body, Wing Biddlebaum sprang to his feet and thrust his hands deep into his trousers pockets” (Anderson 5).
This imagery involving hands being thrust into pockets is intended by Anderson to be a metaphor for prison. Wing’s hands are repeatedly described in terms of birds. Biddlebaum’s own name reflects this very idea. According to Anderson, “The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands. Their restless activity, like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given him his
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