M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

de classics, modern fiction,
We



Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Hands" From Wineburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-The Classics Circuit

"Hands" from Wineburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (6 pages, 1919)


Sherwood Anderson (1876 to 1941)



I am happy to be once again participating in The Classics Circuit.  As always, I give my great thanks to Rebecca for this great event and for encouraging the reading of classics.    The topic for March is America's Lost Generation.   The time frame is the post WWI years up until around 1930 or so.   The super star American authors of the period are F. Scott Fitzgerald,  Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, T.  S. Elliot,  Gertrude Stein,  and John Dos Passos.     In short stories, one of my primary focuses lately,   Sherwood Anderson's  Wineburg,   Ohio was and still is very influential.     The book is a collection of short stories about the ordinary people of an imaginary small town in Ohio.   Frank O'Conner  has said that the short story at its best most often focuses on people at the margins of society, people who do not quite fit in.    This is the exact focus of the wonderful stories in Winesburg, Ohio.   In his magisterial survey  The March of Literature,  Ford Madox Ford lists Wineburg, Ohio as a must read book.  

Anderson felt his best work of all time was his story "Hands", in Wineburg, Ohio.   I read all the stories and I found this the most moving one.

"Hands" is a near shocking story for its subject matter and the depth of psychological penetration.   It is one of the very few works that I am aware of that deal with a male teacher considered to be a molester of the young boys in his class in a sympathetic fashion.     Anderson does a masterful job of letting us see how a man's appearance could lead those around him to come to the conclusion he may well be a child molester (and there is nothing in the story to say the lead character is not in fact one).   It is a perfect account of the effects of profiling in a day when the word "profiling" was not even known.    The plot is simple.   A male teacher likes to show his affection for his male pupils by touching and patting them (on the back as far as we are shown).   The man does not meet the standards for a "manly man" in small town Ohio in 1919 and ends up losing his teaching job and narrowly escapes a lynch mob.    It is what this does to the protagonist that makes this story so interesting.   I do not wish to spoil the story (you can read it in just a few minutes).   The style is simple and straightforward.    This is good old fashioned story telling.    

"Hands" can be read online HERE

I am always looking for ideas for new short stories to read-please leave any suggestions you might have

Mel u







Mel u

10 comments:

Laurie said...

What a wonderful challenge, Mel. And I remember reading "Hands" 30 (yes, 30!) years ago. It sticks with a reader for that long... Glad you brought it back to mind; think I'll hop on over and give it another read.

mel u said...

Laura, thanks very much-I do not think I will forget this story either

Laurie said...

And, hey, I just thought of a more recent - and somehow related on more than one level - short story about an unusual substitute teacher who uses quite unconvential tactics: "Gryphon" by Charles Baxter. It's been years since I read it, but in the past I taught it and students found the experience surprising and thought-provoking...
If you like contemporary stories, Maile Meloy's been writing some strong ones... I reviewed her collection Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It a few months ago.
Short fiction is actually my favorite genre to read, so if you ever want more ideas, just say the word!

C.B. James said...

I agree that this is probably the strongest story in an excellent collection. But I disagree with you about the teacher's guilt. I can't recall anything in the story to suggest that he is guilty at all. I may risk a spoiler here, so be warned.

I read him as being so frightened by the accusation and what happened to him that he no longer trusts himself. He never did anything wrong with his hands before, but now he's been forced to suspect them.

This ambiguity is one thing that makes this such a great piece, whatever one ends up thinking about the main character.

Kenneth said...

Winesburg, OH is such a great book. That ending has stuck with me for years.

JoAnn said...

It's been a few years since I read this one, but I wasn't sure the teacher was actually guilty. Need to go back and reread. Thanks for reminding me of this powerful story.

Laurie said...

I have heard a lot about Wineburg, Ohio and am very interested in reading it. It is definitely one I will be picking up.

MustardSeedReads said...

Thank you for your review. This book has been on my shelf for a while now. Thanks to you, I will dust it off and give it a chance.

Stephanie M. Hasty said...

i absolutely love _winesburg, ohio_, especially the story "sophistication"...sigh...

Rebecca Reid said...

you've really gotten me interested in giving Winesburg Ohio. I'm really interested in the idea of "ordinary people" in a small town.