Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 411
Wing Biddlebaum Wing Biddlebaum (also known as Adolph Myers) is a bald, fat recluse who lives in a small house outside the town of Winesburg, Ohio. He is bent, and looks like an old man, but he is only forty years old. His most distinguishing feature is his hands. They...
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Wing Biddlebaum (also known as Adolph Myers) is a bald, fat recluse who lives in a small house outside the town of Winesburg, Ohio. He is bent, and looks like an old man, but he is only forty years old. His most distinguishing feature is his hands. They are active, expressive hands that move about in rapid gestures while he talks. Their movement has earned him the nickname ‘‘Wing.’’ When Wing was a young man, still using his birth name Adolph Myers, he was a schoolteacher in rural Pennsylvania. He was a gifted teacher who inspired his students to learn, and who showed affection for them freely, rubbing their shoulders and ruffling their hair. When a ‘‘half-witted boy’’ took Myers’s touches for sexual advances, Myers was run out of town. Now he lives alone in Winesburg, using a false name and avoiding people. Only with his friend George Willard is he able to talk and relax a bit, and to try to use his gift for inspiring young men. He urges George to follow his own inclination to dream. But when he forgets himself and lays his hands on George’s shoulders, Wing panics and runs away.
Henry Bradford is a saloon-keeper in Pennsylvania, whose son is a student of Adolph Myers’. Suspecting that Myers has made improper sexual advances to his son, Bradford comes to school one day and, finding him in the school yard, beats and kicks Myers.
One of Adolph Myers’s students is a ‘‘halfwitted boy’’ who develops a crush on his teacher. The boy fantasizes about sexual contact with his teacher and reports his fantasies as fact. The boy’s stories confirm the ‘‘hidden, shadowy doubts’’ that the men in town had already held about the gentle Adolph Myers.
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Wing Biddlebaum’s only friend in the town he has lived in for twenty years is George Willard, the reporter for the Winesburg Eagle. George occasionally visits Wing in the evening, and as the story opens, Wing is pacing on his porch hoping George will appear. In the past, the two have taken walks together, in town or out in the country, and Wing has tried to encourage George to follow his dreams. George has been curious about Wing’s hands, noticing that he alternately waves them about and hides them away, but out of respect for his friend he holds his questions back.