(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Hands cover image

Wing Biddlebaum, a fat little old man, lives an isolated life in a small frame house outside Winesburg, a small, provincial Ohio town. Beset by troubling doubts, he does not think of himself as a part of the life of the town where he has lived for twenty years. In fact, only with George Willard, the young son of the proprietor of the New Willard House, does Wing have anything close to a friendship, and only in George’s presence does Wing lose some of his timidity. On this single day of the story’s action, Wing hopes that George will spend the evening with him. George never appears, and most of the story’s action occurs not in the present but in flashbacks.

During an earlier meeting between the two men, Wing became “wholly inspired” and told the younger man that he cared too much about the opinions of others, and should shut his ears to the roaring of other people’s voices and begin to dream. Wing “raised the hands to caress the boy and then a look of horror swept over his face.”

After Wing flees this scene, George thinks Wing’s hands have something to do with his fear of him and everyone. Here begins a major flashback, “the story of the hands. Perhaps our talking of them will arouse the poet who will tell the hidden wonder story of the influence for which the hands were but fluttering pennants of promise.”

Wing had an earlier existence as Adolph Myers, a twenty-year-old school teacher in rural Pennsylvania....

(The entire section is 527 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

The story opens with a sentence that establishes the setting and the main character: ‘‘Upon the half decayed veranda of a small frame...

(The entire section is 715 words.)