Topics for Further Study

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Using the Oxford English Dictionary and a dictionary of literary terms, investigate meanings of the word ‘‘grotesque,’’ especially as it is used as a noun. Learn how the meanings have changed over time. In what ways is Wing Biddlebaum a grotesque?

Look at a few paragraphs from short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, or other nineteenthcentury American writers. Compare individual sentences in these writers’ works with sentences in ‘‘Hands.’’ How do the styles compare? What new things was Anderson attempting to do with his prose?

Some early reviewers of Anderson’s short stories wrote that the author was cold and distant and created characters even he did not care about. Based on ‘‘Hands,’’ do you think this assessment is accurate?

Look closely at the passages in ‘‘Hands’’ where Adolph Myers’ relationship with his students is described. Do you think his physical contact with the students is appropriate? How would such contact be viewed in your community?

The half-witted boy’s accusations confirm ‘‘hidden, shadowy doubts’’ in the minds of the men in town. What might have contributed to these doubts?

Readers and critics have disagreed over the years about whether or not Wing Biddlebaum was sexually attracted to his young students. Does it make a difference to how you read the story? Discuss the ways in which the meaning of the story—and of Wing’s friendship with George Willard—is affected by Wing’s sexual orientation.

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