The Nature of Humanity in the Work of Sherwood Anderson Essay

The Nature of Humanity in the Work of Sherwood Anderson Essay

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The Nature of Humanity in the Work of Sherwood Anderson


A common staple of horror stories—in film and on the page—is the scene of the frightened and indignant villagers chasing the monster who has been terrorizing the townsfolk. In Sherwood Anderson’s “Hands,” the protagonist, Adolph Myers (Wing Biddlebaum) is a well-intentioned individual whose actions the people around him contort so that he becomes more fiend than friend. In Wing Biddlebaum, the very aspects of his character that make him human are those that society distorts to make him into a maladapted monster: first, the mystery that surrounds him causes the townspeople to misunderstand him; second, because of the accusations of his pedophilic homosexuality stemming from this misunderstanding, they demonized him into a pariah; and, third, the guilt that the “mob” forces him to feel ultimately confines him to his own prison of anguish. Approaching the story from this perspective demonstrates that Wing’s destiny is almost beyond his control, a destiny significantly manufactured by his society’s judgments.

Wing is an extremely intricate person; however, most of the people among whom he lived in Pennsylvania before his current residence in Ohio failed to recognize this, as do his fellow citizens in the town of Winesburg. Anderson describes him as “one of those rare, little-understood men who rule by a power so gentle that it passes as a lovable weakness” (13). Just as his previous neighbors were unable to understand Wing fully, so are those among whom he currently lives: “the depth and complexity of [his] suffering” baffles them (Elledge 11). The very profundity of Wing’s situation explains why he “for twenty years had been the town mystery,” although osten...


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...While he is obviously no monster, ironically, his weakness and frailty as a limited mortal prolong his fall from grace, making a rise from such a fall seem insurmountable, tragically preserving the inaccurate image of his soul as that of a mere depraved, malevolent, and corrupting offense to human decency.

Works Cited

Anderson, Sherwood. “Hands.” Winesburg, Ohio. New York: Bantam, 1995. 8-15.

Brown, Lynda. “Anderson’s Wing Biddlebaum and Freeman’s Louisa Ellis.” Studies in
Short Fiction 27.3 (1990): 413-414.

Elledge, Jim. “Dante’s Lovers in Sherwood Anderson’s ‘Hands.’” Studies in Short
Fiction 21.1 (1984): 11-15.

Morgan, Gwendolyn. “Anderson’s ‘Hands.’” The Explicator 48.1 (1989): 46-47.

Updike, John. “Twisted Apples: On Winesburg, Ohio.” The American Short Story and
Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford, 2000. 1464-1468.

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