Getting to Know Wing Biddlebaum
The innocence of an individual can never be truly recognized unless one sees their potential. People go throughout life learning who they are and what the future holds for them. “The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands. Their restless activity, like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given him his name” (Anderson, 23). Within the short fiction Hands by Sherwood Anderson, readers experience the defining moments of a man who lost his innocence to a lie. Anderson’s short fiction is prominent to readers because also it allows individuals a perspective of a man losing himself over time. The author’s depiction of Biddlebaum’s character is based upon his physical actions, dialogue from others, and his own conscious.
Mr. Biddlebaum was an individual whose life change him to where he is now. Within the story we read on about a person who may seem to have a mental disorder due to his consistent movement of his hands around others. “When he talked to George Willard, Wing Biddlebaum closed his fists and with them upon a table or on the walls of his house” (Anderson, 23) implies that when he physically is around people he takes pleasure in harming himself, but only his hands. As the readers read this, they wonder why the author would insert something about a man who can be characterized as insane. The author implements this personality detail in order for the reader to wonder why Mr. Biddlebaum would do something such as harm his hands. Another physical action Biddlebaum does is he will also talk with his hands. Most people will do so, but he does it all the time as described by Anderson on page 22, “Wing Biddlebaum talked much with his hands. The slender expressive fingers, forever active […] became the piston rods of his machinery of expression”. This showed Wing was a passionate man when he talked to you. This made his character somewhat bright in the eyes of the beholder.
Words from others can conflict between who a person is and to what the talk of a town is. As a reader moves along throughout the story, they find themselves on the foreshadowing of Biddlebaum’s past. Mr. Biddlebaum can be described by the author as a gentle spirited man. He used to teach at a boys school where everyone enjoyed his company. “Adolph Myers had walked in the evening or sat talking until dusk up the school house steps […] caressing the shoulders of the boys, …” (Anderson, 24) shows that Wing cared about the boys he taught and would engage in conversations with them outside of school. The author describes him as a truly passionate man who had a “schoolmaster’s effort to carry a dream into the heads of young minds” (Anderson, 24) to encourage the boys to excel. Later on within the foreshadowing of his past, it entails of why he hits his hands. The story proceeds to describe how a student of Biddlebaum had dreams of him in unspeakable experiences which then got spread in the school yard as if Biddlebaum had a sexual encounter with the boy. It is then stated that boys would question their teacher and an uproar form the town chased Mr. Biddlebaum out from an accusation made by someone who told only of his dreams. At this the descriptions of the other characters within the story is that Wing is a child molester and is now an outcast. The labeling of one person changed the perspective of others that in turn changed a man’s life.
A man’s conscious is the root to his life paved history. Mr. Biddlebaum has had a horrible past that shaped his now mysterious life that he hides from people. “The slender expressive fingers, forever active, forever striving to conceal themselves in his pockets or behind his back…” (Anderson, 22) describes that yes his hands were an active part of Biddlebaum’s expression while talking, but also uncovers that in his conscious, he feels to be guilty of a crime. He wants to hide his shame because it drove him out of his hometown in Pennsylvania. The reason the author uses the character’s own thoughts and conscious as a tool to describe him, shows how innocent of a man he truly is. It characterizes Biddlebaum as not a mentally distort individual, but as someone who was blamed for something that he now believes is true. His conscious causes him to “…closed his fists and with them upon a table or on the walls of his house” (Anderson, 23), because his hands are what caused the misunderstanding. While walking with George Willard, a sort of friend to Biddlebaum, he places his hands on the boys’ shoulders and has a flashback of his past. “With a convulsive movement of his body, Wing Biddlebaum sprang to his feet and thrust his hands into his trouser pockets. Tears came to his eyes” (Anderson, 24) shows that the man’s conscious stopped him from being his normal self with others. His conscious makes him become a person who fears others.
Anderson uses the physical actions, dialogue from others, and Wing’s conscious to allow the reader to see within Mr. Biddlebaum as a character. Through Anderson’s work, we see why Biddlebaum is a fearful, anxious man that once was a passionate school teacher. When looking into the short fiction Hands, readers will be aware of how some innocent people are accused of things they themselves will never shake from their hearts. When reading Hands, people will see the tale of a heart that never became free from the horrors others spoke upon. When reading literature, people will find an author’s depiction of a character to be a spoken symbol in our reality.