Sherwood Anderson

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How is realism used in Sherwood Anderson's short story "Hands"?

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Realism is used in the short story "Hands" in that Sherwood Anderson offers an unflinching portrait of an ordinary and pitiful man marginalized by an uncaring society.

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As a literary movement, Realism seeks to capture ordinary people going about their everyday lives. There is no emphasis on any of the emotional excesses or imaginative or supernatural qualities of the Romantic era that preceded it.

In "Hands," Wing Biddlebaum is not in any way extraordinary. He has fallen from the lower middle class as a teacher to an even lower social stratum as a laborer. He has become a victim of a brutal group of men who literally chased him from his home and profession because of a lie concocted by an untrustworthy child. He is a pitiful character and there is nothing that is going to change the grim reality of his existence as a pariah who can only exist on the fringes of society. His peculiarities are innate, and aside from George Willard, who is more objective and kind than most of the people in Winesburg, people are content to keep him at a distance.

Wing Biddlebaum's unfortunate situation is entirely plausible and reflects the ignorance and violence that sometimes exists in society, particularly in the time when Sherwood Anderson wrote the story. The conclusion of the story suggests that Wing will always be misunderstood and will live out the rest of his days marginalized and alone. This is Anderson's expression of Realism, as life is full of people like Wing Biddlebaum.

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