Archive for the ‘Chapters’ Category

SOPHISTICATION / Helen White

February 14, 2018

PP. 145: “With all his heart he wants to come close to some other human, touch someone with his hands, be touched by the hand of another”;

PP. 146: “The confused boy put his hand on the girl’s arm. His voice trembled”;

PP. 147: “He held a whip in his hand and kept tapping the ground”;

PP. 148:”Come on, he said and took hold of her hand. With hanging heads they walked away along the street under the trees”;

PP. 149:”The presence of Helen renewed and refreshed him. It was as though her woman’s hand was assisting him to make some minute readjustment of the machinery of his life”; “In the darkness he took hold of her hand and when she crept close put a hand on her shoulder”.

PP. 150: “When they had come to the crest of Waterworks Hill they stopped by a tree and George again put his hands on the girl’s shoulders”.


Just on the evidence of mentions of hands, it’s plain that the difference between the Willard/ White relationship and the Richmond/ White relationship is that the male is the initiator of contact in the former: Helen does not reach out for George as she had reached out for Seth (80). In the Swift/ Willard relationship (again just on the evidence of mentions of hands) Swift seems the main initiator, yet there is more parity.

DRINK / Tom Foster

February 14, 2018

PP. 128: “Her hands were all twisted out of shape. When she took hold of a mop or a broom handle the hands looked like the dried stems of an old creeping vine clinging to a tree”; “It was past seven o’clock at night when the grandmother came home with the pocket-book held tightly in her old hands and she was so excited she could scarcely speak”;

PP. 134:”. When George Willard was insistent he put out his hand, laying it on the older boy’s arm, and tried to explain.”


THE UNTOLD LIE / Ray Pearson

February 13, 2018

PP. 123: “Ray Pearson and Hal Winters were farm hands “;

PP. 124: (fists) “Ray, who was the more sensitive and always minded things more, had chapped hands and they hurt”;

PP. 125:
“He was almost a foot shorter than Hal, and when the younger man came and put his two hands on the older man’s shoulders they made a picture”; ” He shook Hal’s hands loose and turning walked straight away toward the barn”;

PP. 126: (fists) ; “His wife went into the bedroom and presently came out with a soiled cloth in one hand and three silver dollars in the other”; “Of a sudden he forgot all about being a quiet old farm hand and throwing off the torn overcoat began to run across the field”; “he hadn’t wanted to be a farm hand, but had thought when he got out West he would go to sea and be a sailor or get a job on a ranch and ride a horse into Western towns, shouting and laughing and waking the people in the houses with his wild cries”.

PP. 127: “Then as he ran he remembered his children and in fancy felt their hands clutching at him”; “It was almost dark when he got to the fence and he put his hands on the top bar”; “Hal Winters jumped a ditch and coming up close to Ray put his hands into his pockets and laughed”; “He seemed to have lost his own sense of what had happened in the corn field and when he put up a strong hand and took hold of the lapel of Ray’s coat he shook the old man as he might have shaken a dog that had misbehaved”;

“QUEER” / Elmer Cowley

February 13, 2018

PP. 115: “With the shoes in his hand he sat looking at a large hole in the heel of one of his stockings”; “Well, well, what next! exclaimed the young man with the shoes in his hand, jumping to his feet and creeping away from the window”; “A flush crept into Elmer Cowley’s face and his hands began to tremble”; “With one of the shoes still held in his hand he stood in a corner of the shed and stamped with a stockinged foot upon the board floor”;

PP. 116: “With one hand he quickly unfastened a collar from his shirt and then fastened it on again”; “Still holding the shoe in his hand Elmer Cowley went through the store, past the two absorbed men, to a glass showcase near the front door”;

PP. 117: “Sitting on a barrel he pulled on and fastened the shoe he had been holding in his hand“;

PP. 118:”Sullenly the tall young man tramped along the road with his hands stuffed into his trouser pockets”;

PP. 120: ” He kept his hand on the knob as though prepared to resist anyone else coming in”; “He thrust his hands into the overcoat pockets and looked inquiringly at his companion”.

PP. 122:”Taking the two ten-dollar bills from his pocket he thrust them into George Willard’s hand“; “Like one struggling for release from hands that held him he struck out, hitting George Willard blow after blow on the breast, the neck, the mouth”;

AN AWAKENING/ Belle Carpenter

February 9, 2018

PP.108 : “One day she went home at noon and carried a handful of soft mud, taken from the road, into the house”;

PP.110 : ” he gripped her shoulders with his strong hands“;

PP.111 :” the laborers worked in the fields or were section hands on the railroads”;

PP.112 : “He felt unutterably big and remade by the simple experience through which he had been passing and in a kind of fervor of emotion put up his hands, thrusting them into the darkness above his head and muttering words”; “He felt that all of the people in the little street must be brothers and sisters to him and he wished he had the courage to call them out of their houses and to shake their hands“; “If there were only a woman here I would take hold of her hand and we would run until we were both tired out”.

PP.113 :
“In the dim light the man sat motionless holding his head in his hands“; “‘You’ll find me different,’ he declared, thrusting his hands into his pockets and looking boldly into her eyes”;

PP.114 : “As in the vacant lot, by the laborers’ houses, he had put up his hands in gratitude for the new power in himself”; “Gripping George by the shoulder and pulling him to his feet, he held him with one hand while he looked at Belle Carpenter”; “On his hands and knees in the bushes George Willard stared at the scene before him and tried hard to think”;

Fists: Belle Carpenter’s (108); Ed Handby’s (109); Ed Handby’s (pp.114)

[Ed Handby named 11 times.]


Power“… occurs twenty times in Winesburg and most interestingly in this chapter, each time with reference to males,

Misogyny“…It’s notable that misogynist Wash Williams says that it’s because he saw George Williams “kissing the lips of Belle Carpenter” –Belle Carpenter specifically– that he has chosen to share his personal story with him (Respectability, pp. 71), as if Belle some representented the source of his hatred of women, beyond being female.

It does seem as if Belle has some ideas about “respectability”, by keeping her relationship with the bartender a secret (for his low social status), and she engages in a bit of deceit on that account. We’re told further, in very strong terms, that George Willard hates and will probably continue to hate Belle Carpenter, because of this episode.

LONELINESS/ Enoch Robinson

February 8, 2018

PP. 103: “He began to get lonely and to want to touch actual flesh-and-bone people with his hands“.

PP. 104:”There was a woman with a sword in her hand“.

PP. 105:” He sat on a cot by the window with his head in his hand and George Willard was in a chair by a table”.

PP. 106 :”Her hands were so strong and her face was so good and she looked at me all the time”.


THE TEACHER / Kate Swift

February 8, 2018

PP. 96: “With hands clasped behind her back the school teacher walked up and down in the schoolroom and talked very rapidly.”

PP. 96:”As he turned to go she spoke his name softly and with an impulsive movement took hold of his hand“;

PP. 97: “Again her hands took hold of his shoulders and she turned him about”;

PP. 98: “When he came and put a hand on her shoulder she turned and let her body fall heavily against him” (fists);

PP. 99: “When he became drowsy and closed his eyes, he raised a hand and with it groped about in the darkness. ‘I have missed something'”.


Things to look into: contrasting Wing Biddlebaum and Kate Swift as teachers of George Willard (the former tells Willard to stop listening to others voices, while the latter tells him he will have to learn to live in order to be able to write); also an interpretation of ‘fists’; and of ‘manifestation of god’; …

For example: in Strength of God Swift, thinking of Willard, beats a pillow with her “fists”. Biddlebaum, when in Willard’s presence, closes his hand into a fist and beats them on something.

THE STRENGTH OF GOD/ Reverend Curtis Hartman

February 7, 2018

PP. 86: “on the other hand

PP. 87: “On the window, made of little leaded panes, was a design showing the Christ laying his hand upon the head of a child”; “good although somewhat worldly women, had smoked through the pages of a book that had once fallen into his hands“.

PP. 88:”She also had arisen and had gone for a walk and the hand that raised the shade was the hand of Aunt Elizabeth Swift”; “It is only the hand of God, placed beneath my head, that has raised me up.”

Fists: “Lying face downward she wept and beat with her fists upon the pillow” “I am delivered. Have no fear.” He held up a bleeding fist for the young man to see. “I smashed the glass of the window,” he cried. “Now it will have to be wholly replaced. The strength of God was in me and I broke it with my fist” (91-92)


“Windows”… Word occurs 74 times. Strength of God has perhaps the most significant single window, because of its imagery, but throughout Winesburg you have people looking through, or otherwise having to do with, windows significantly. (Seth Richmond, Elizabeth Willard, Dr. Reefy, the old writer of Book of The Grotesque– Dr. Parcival’s eye lid like a window shade rolling up, and so forth)

The image in the window is of Christ touching the head of a child with his hand. When Hartman breaks the window, he nicks off the heel of the adoring boy. When Hartman sees the naked Kate Swift, he believes she resembles the boy in the window. He believes her also to be a manifestation of God. (“Manifestation of God” is also the term used in Tandy.) When he sees her beat the pillow with her fists, he breaks the window with his fists. What does all this add up to?

What’s clear is that the reverend mimics the teacher, has taken his cue from her, and strikes out at the window like she does the pillow. By doing so, he first frees himself from the temptation presented by the broken window (the window will need to be replaced) but also frees him from his former idea of God: Christ with his hand on the adoring child’s head.

(It’s interesting that from the first Swift and Hartman are engaged in parallel activities: both reading.)

Finally, just to say, the term Strength of God is I believe unironically unironically here, but this the Woman-God of the drunkard from Cleveland in Tandy and not the Male-God (that is, the god that requires a son) of Jesse Bentley in Godliness.

TANDY/ Tandy Hard

February 7, 2018

PP. 84: “The stranger arose and stood before Tom Hard. His body rocked back and forth and he seemed about to fall, but instead he dropped to his knees on the sidewalk and raised the hands of the little girl to his drunken lips. He kissed them ecstatically. ‘Be Tandy, little one,” he pleaded. ‘Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy.”


Raised the hands The phrase “raised the hands” occurs once elsewhere, in Hands (7). (In the next chapter, The Strength of God, the image on the window is of “Christ laying his hand on the head of a child.”)

An Idea of God… This is another chapter in which it is revealed (this time, in his remarks on God) that Anderson’s personal philosophy is significantly coloring this work –ideas on religion, on gender, on modernization.

This makes Anderson seem more akin to an author like Tolstoy (whose War & Peace, for example, occurs against the backdrop of his ideas of history) than to Dostoyevsky, whose philosophizing tends to occur in the mouths of his characters and without the authority of the narrator.

THE THINKER/ Seth Richmond

February 6, 2018

PP. 75: “Seth’s two companions sang and waved their hands to idlers about the stations of the towns through which the train passed”.

PP. 76 : “The baker had an empty milk bottle in his hand and an angry sullen look in his eyes.”

PP. 80: “The notes had been written in a round, boyish hand and had reflected a mind inflamed by novel reading” ; “”That’s Belle Turner,” whispered Helen, and put her hand boldly into Seth’s hand“; “The hand of the girl was warm and a strange, dizzy feeling crept over him”.

PP. 81: “Beside him, in the scene built in his fancy, lay Helen White, her hand lying in his hand“; “Releasing the hand of the girl, he thrust his hands into his trouser pockets”.

PP. 82: “Seth arose from the bench and put out his hand“; “Putting her hand upon Seth’s shoulder, she started to draw his face down toward her own upturned face”; “”I think I’d better be going along,” she said, letting her hand fall heavily to her side”


It’s Helen who reaches for Seth’s hand and Seth who releases Helen’s hand.

The narrator makes plain he considers boldness a male attribute at (27), which, coupled with the “boyish hand” Helen White writes with (80), seems to suggest something masculine (or possibly “Tandy“) in her character.

Helen seems to court Seth just as George Willard (77) does; and provides another example of a young woman initiating romantic liaisons through notes (a la Louise Trunnion, Louise Bentley).

The “dual hand mentions” of this chapter are somewhat surprising: rather than saying, “they held hands”, or “she reached for his hand” some such, Anderson uses the formula “her hand in his hand”, then, a few paragraphs later, “lying hand in hand”; finally, in a third instance of hand occurring twice in a single sentence, Seth releases the girl’s hand and thrusts his own in his trouser pockets.

RESPECTABILITY / Wash Williams

February 5, 2018

PP. 68: “Not everything about Wash was unclean. He took care of his hands“; “His fingers were fat, but there was something sensitive and shapely in the hand that lay on the table by the instrument in the telegraph office”;

PP. 70: “They are creeping, crawling, squirming things, they with their soft hands and their blue eyes.”

PP. 71: “In the little paths among the seed beds she stood holding a paper bag in her hand. The bag was filled with seeds. A few at a time she handed me the seeds that I might thrust them into the warm, soft ground”;

PP. 72: “I thought that if she came in and just touched me with her hand I would perhaps faint away. I ached to forgive and forget”.


Hate. The word occurs some twenty-three times in the book, ‘hatred’ five, and (just eyeballing it) the idea appears to occur most in this chapter. Elizabeth Willard hates her husband and the town, Louise Bentley hates “everything”; Parcival wants Willard to be filled with it (“so that he will be a superior being”); Willard does come to feel it for Belle Carpenter and for the humiliation she has made him too feel; Tom Foster felt no hate (and this is the book’s last mention of the word):

So gentle was his nature that he could not hate anything and not being able to understand he decided to forget.

ADVENTURE / Alice Hindman

February 2, 2018

PP. 66:”Beside the drug clerk she walked in silence, but sometimes in the darkness as they went stolidly along she put out her hand and touched softly the folds of his coat”

PP. 67: “He was an old man and somewhat deaf. Putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted. “What? What say?””; “She was so frightened at the thought of what she had done that when the man had gone on his way she did not dare get to her feet, but crawled on hands and knees through the grass to the house”; “Her body shook as with a chill and her hands trembled so that she had difficulty getting into her nightdress”.


There are a number of so-called “adventures” that occur in Winesburg, why is this chapter actually given that title?

Trembling occurs often in Winesburg but hands that tremble much less so. This is one of them along with, in the previous chapter, George Willard’s trembling hands not holding a pen.

Wine Creek again occurs here, as the scene of Alice’s lovemaking with Ned Currie..

Structure of this chapter. We’re given a kind of blow by blow of Alice Hindman’s life between the ages of 16 and 27. Major events: 16, affair with Ned Currie begins (it ends about a year later); 22, her father dies, she takes up retail work, she begins to realize Ned Currie is a mere dream now; 25, mother remarries, and she herself joins a church (a man of the church takes a not-really-reciprocated interest in her). 27: her adventure.

Causes me to think… Many of these stories seem to start in the present day (i.e., the day when the stories were written) and work back to the time when George Willard was living among them. The suggestion takes hold, that Anderson met some of his youthful acquiantances later in life, and worked back from those appearances to their stories. For Example, with Dr. Reefy, Anderson starts with: a present appearance of Reefy (Reefy at 55) and a memory of Reefy (Reefy at 35) and the story is an attempt to bridge the present appearance with the appearance in the memory. (However, my understanding is that the basis of these characters are not figures from Anderson’s childhood village life, but from his young adulthood in Chicago.)

A MAN OF IDEAS / Joe Welling

February 1, 2018

PP. 57: “There was a cloud in the west down near the horizon, a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand“.

PP. 58: “rolling his eyes about and running a thin nervous hand through his hair”.

PP. 59: “Watch my fingers! Watch my hands! Watch my feet! Watch my eyes!” ; “always carried a heavy, wicked-looking walking stick in his hand“; “When he laughed he scratched his left elbow with his right hand“.

PP. 60: “The son had the heavy walking stick in his hand and sat near the door”; “scratching his left elbow with his right hand“; “George Willard went to his own room and sat down at his desk. He tried to write but his hand trembled so that he could not hold the pen”; “Absorbed in an idea he closed the door and, lighting a lamp, spread the handful of weeds and grasses upon the floor”.


What are the ideas of Joe Welling:

(1) That water levels of creeks are determined by amounts rainfall upstream, often far from sight.

(2) That the world is on fire with decay.

(3) That, if the world’s vegetation were somehow lost, new edible vegetation could be raised up from wild weeds and grasses.

Also provocative is his statement about baseball that “in me you see all the movements of the game.” (His success at baseball has everything to do with him being watched. “You just watch him,” say the townsfolk.) The liveliness of these ideas is contrasted with the humdrum sports talk of the men at the drug store.

Wine Creek. I believe we first started hearing of Wine Creek in the Godliness tales, directly preceding this one. Joe Welling lived in a house “where the main street of Winesburg crossed Wine Creek.”

Medina County is both the source of the increased water levels of Wine Creek and one of Welling’s (presumably) early baseball victories. (Not otherwise mentioned in Winesburg.)

Hands. “A cloud no bigger than a man’s hand’ is an interesting statement, but I don’t know what might be made of it. Joe does not seem particularly characterized by his hands (perhaps more by the fingers) unlike the Kings, whose characters are given some dimension by what they hold (the stick) or do (scratch their elbow) with their hands. Possibly a similar idea is at work behind George Willard being unable to hold a pen in his hand. Anderson wanted to convey Willard was agitated, and his means was to show the interruption of something routine with him, writing.

Mother. The first thing we’re told about Welling is that he lives with his mother. Although we’re told nothing else about this relationship, it appears his mother’s death is catalyst for major, apparently positive, changes in his life, suggesting a comparison to George Willard and others. Also, the information that she died after Willard had been working at The Eagle for a year, may help us fill out the chronology of the book.

GODLINESS (iv) / David Hardy

January 31, 2018

PP. 53: “One day he killed a squirrel that sat on one of the lower branches of a tree and chattered at him. Home he ran with the squirrel in his hand“.

PP. 55: “As he ran he put his hand into his pocket and took out the branched stick from which the sling for shooting squirrels was suspended”; “when he saw his grandfather still running toward him with the long knife held tightly in his hand he did not hesitate”.


Conflation of the biblical narratives of David and Goliath and Abraham and Isaac. David Bentley thinks Jesse Bentley is Abraham to his Isaac, and treats him as a Goliath, but Jesse Bentley thinks David Bentley is really (King) David to his Jesse (the father).

Another instance of ‘mistaken-ness’. Like Dr. Parcival mistakenly think the town is going to come after him for something it doesn’t even know about, and Reefy and Williard’s intimacy is disturbed by someone who they wrongly imagine will discover them, so David thinks that Jesse is coming after him when he is in fact going after the lamb.

GODLINESS (iii) / Louise Bentley

January 31, 2018

PP. 48: “It had not become that definite, and her mind had only alighted upon the person of John Hardy because he was at hand and unlike his sisters had not been unfriendly to her”.

PP. 50: “The age-old woman’s desire to be possessed had taken possession of her, but so vague was her notion of life that it seemed to her just the touch of John Hardy’s hand upon her own hand would satisfy”; “The farm hand, a young fellow with black curly hair,”; “Louise frightened the farm hand still more by turning and putting her cheek down upon his shoulder.”

PP. 51: “Sometimes she stayed in the room with him all day, walking about and occasionally creeping close to touch him tenderly with her hands“.


This story is interesting for the way it illumines, and is illumined by, the chapter “Nobody Knows”: By knowing how Louise Bentley came to the point of writing a note, we may infer something of why Louise Trunnion wrote her note. We’re told almost nothing of how John Hardy responds to receiving Louise Bentley’s note, but may imagine it was something like George Willard’s response to receiving a note from his Louise. (Well maybe.)

Louise Bentley also suggests a strong comparison with Elizabeth Willard: united in being unhappy women, who will on occasion drive recklessly in buggies, who both had sons and died young, for whom marriage was a disappointment. (Louise’s “false alarm” brings to mind Dr. Reefy’s young wife, though that was a miscarriage.) A difference between them is that Louise Bentley seems more of a victim of her circumstances, having been borne without a mother and with a father who wanted a son. Elizabeth’s problems have more to do with her passionate nature, a society disinclined to accommodate that…?

GODLINESS (ii) / Jesse Bentley

January 30, 2018

PP.36 : “Dismissing the driver she took the reins in her own hands and drove off at top speed through the streets”.

PP.38 : “farm hand”, “With her own hands Louise Hardy bathed his tired young body and cooked him food”.

PP.39 : “He also grew bold and reaching out his hand stroked the face of the woman on the floor so that she was ecstatically happy.”

PP.40 : “The disappointment that had come to him when a daughter and not a son had been born to Katherine had fallen upon him like a blow struck by some unseen hand” .

PP.41 : “it was harder to get back the old feeling of a close and personal God who lived in the sky overhead and who might at any moment reach out his hand, touch him on the shoulder, and appoint for him some heroic task”; “the half-witted girl was poked in the ribs by a farm hand” “one of the farm hands spoke sharply to the horse”.

PP.42 : “the farm hands had now all assembled to do the morning shores”; ” The farm hands looked at him and laughed”; “It amused David so that he laughed and clapped his hands“.

PP.43 : “When a rabbit jumped up and ran away through the woods, he clapped his hands and danced with delight”; “His hand on the boy’s shoulders twitched also.”

PP.44 :”With a cry of fear, David turned and, shaking himself loose from the hands that held him, ran away through the forest”; ” but it was only after Jesse had carried him to the buggy and he awoke to find the old man’s hand stroking his head tenderly that the terror left him.”


The hands of this chapter in five categories: (1) Louise’s hands (which hold the reins of the horse, and bathe and cook for her child (2) David’s hands (which clap in delight, which stroke a mothering woman’s face) (3) God’s hands (whose presence or absence Jesse Bentley is sensitive to) (4) Jesse Bentley’s hands (which terrifyingly grip the boy but also tenderly stroke his head) (5) and finally farm hands which, although a figure of speech, seem a jovial crew that fit with David’s delighted clapping and embrace of farm life.

Use of “farm hands” over “hired men”. There are 8 mentions of “hired men” (or hired girls) vs 10 of “farm hands”. “Servants” occurs 8 times but mainly in a religious connotation, though Enoch Robinson’s imaginary friends were “servants” and we’re told that “In Winesburg, servants were hard to get.”

GODLINESS / Jesse Bentley

January 29, 2018

PP. 30: “They were dressed in overalls and in the winter wore heavy coats that were flecked with mud. Their hands as they stretched them out to the heat of the stoves were cracked and red”;

PP. 31:”everyone on the farms about and in the nearby town of Winesburg smiled at the idea of his trying to handle the work that had been done by his four strong brothers”;

PP.34: “When the war took his brothers away, he saw the hand of God in that”;

PP.35: “send to me this night out of the womb of Katherine, a son. Let Thy grace alight upon me. Send me a son to be called David who shall help me to pluck at last all of these lands out of the hands of the Philistines and turn them to Thy service and to the building of Thy kingdom on earth.'”


NOBODY KNOWS/ Louise Trunnion

January 26, 2018

PP. 27 :”Louise Trunnion came out across the potato patch holding the dish cloth in her hand“; “The boy could see her standing with the doorknob in her hand“; “George thought she must have rubbed her nose with her finger after she had been handling some of the kitchen pots”; “He wanted to touch her with his hand“;

PP. 28 :”He took hold of her hand that was also rough and thought it delightfully small.”


Plants figure interestingly in this chapter: “only a narrow potato patch separated him from the adventure.” Corn, weeds, berries (see note here).

Cat & Dog A cat sprang from George Willard’s feet is this Sylvester West’s cat that troubles the baker and saddens Willard’s mother? This is the only mention of a cat in Winesburg outside of the mentions in “Mother”. (At the end of the chapter, George buys a cigar from West’s.)

“Dog” occurs thirteen times, including once, in the last sentence of this chapter: “She hasn’t got anything on me. Nobody knows,” he muttered doggedly and went on his way. George Willard is said to go about like an “excited dog”, in his role as newpaper reporter (The Thinker), and is attacked by a dog in An Awakening; Ray Pearson, Tom Willard, and the writer of Book of The Grotesque are said, in various capacities, to resemble dogs, etc.

THE PHILOSOPHER / Doctor Parcival

January 25, 2018

PP.20: “The saloon keeper was a short, broad-shouldered man with peculiarly marked hands. That flaming kind of birthmark that sometimes paints with red the faces of men and women had touched with red Tom Willy’s fingers and the backs of his hands. As he stood by the bar talking to Will Henderson he rubbed the hands together. As he grew more and more excited the red of his fingers deepened. It was as though the hands had been dipped in blood that had dried and faded”; “As Will Henderson stood at the bar looking at the red hands and talking of women, his assistant, George Willard, sat in the office of the Winesburg Eagle and listened to the talk of Doctor Parcival.”

PP.23:”There I stood over the dead body and spread out my hands“; “It was very amusing. I spread out my hands and said, ‘Let peace brood over this carcass.'”

PP.24:”We will quarrel and there will be talk of hanging. Then they will come again bearing a rope in their hands.”


This chapter’s placement after the “Mother” chapter, suggests a word of warning to Willard in being obedient to the dream of his mother. That’s what Parcival set out to do in becoming a minister, but found his hard working hard drinking irreligious brother being the more beloved of the two.

To be noted that a disproportionate number (or maybe just “a lot”) of the people of this book are intellectuals or concerned with ideas. Reefy, Parcival, Swift, in a sense Joe Welling, in a sense Seth Richmond….

Parcival’s “fright” of being hanged is “replaced by doubt” (pp.25). Biddlebaum inspires dreams in place of doubts (pp. 8).

Is the redness of Tom Willy’s hands intended to suggest the “crucifixion of all men?”

Parcival’s dirtiness reminds of Wash Williams’ and the core philosophy of both involves a keen hatred for the rest of the species (in the latter’s case, dwelling more on women). Parcival’s idea seems to be like Raskolnikov’s “louse idea” — hold people in contempt and you will be as the Great Man of History. However, the adventure of Parcival and the woman thrown from the wagon seems to disprove his own philosophy. He tries to show contempt for mankind, by refusing to help with the accident, but terrifies himself by doing so, and ultimately, doesn’t seem to understand people very well.

Death / (Dr. Reefy/ Elizabeth Willard)

January 24, 2018

PP. 136: “He was not a graceful man, as when he grew older, and was much occupied with the problem of disposing of his hands and feet.”

PP. 137: “the sick wife of the hotel keeper began to weep and, putting her hands to her face, rocked back and forth”.

PP. 138: “The tall beautiful girl with the swinging stride who had walked under the trees with men was forever putting out her hand into the darkness and trying to get hold of some other hand“; “Elizabeth had married Tom Willard, a clerk in her father’s hotel, because he was at hand“; “Being unable to arise, he put out his hand and pulled the girl’s head down beside his own”.

PP. 139:” By a small desk near the window sat the doctor. His hands played with a lead pencil that lay on the desk”; ” I didn’t like him well enough. There was always paint on his hands and face during those days and he smelled of paint”; “The excited woman sat up very straight in her chair and made a quick girlish movement with her hand as she told of the drive alone on the spring afternoon”.

PP. 140:”In the darkness of her room she put out her hand, thrusting it from under the covers of her bed, and she thought that death like a living thing put out his hand to her”; “On the evening when disease laid its heavy hand upon her and defeated her plans for telling her son George of the eight hundred dollars hidden away”.

PP. 141“There was oil in the preparation he used for the purpose and the tears, catching in the mustache and being brushed away by his hand, formed a fine mist-like vapor”; “He put out his hand as though to greet the younger man and then awkwardly drew it back again”.

PP. 141: “His body trembled and his hands shook”; “The feeling that the body before him was alive, that in another moment a lovely woman would spring out of the bed and confront him, became so overpowering that he could not bear the suspense. Again and again he put out his hand“; “In the hallway outside the door he stopped and trembled so that he had to put a hand against the wall to support himself”; “When Aunt Elizabeth Swift, who had come to watch over the body, came out of an adjoining room he put his hand into hers and began to sob, shaking his head from side to side, half blind with grief”.


Noting, looking at this, how common the formula is: putting his/her hand out/ on something. In the “Mother” chapter the prevalent activity of hands involves holding.

MOTHER / Elizabeth Willard

January 23, 2018

PP. 14: (fists) “At the back door of his shop appeared Abner Groff with a stick or an empty milk bottle in his hand“; “Elizabeth Willard put her head down on her long white hands and wept”.

PP. 15: ” Her long hands, white and bloodless, could be seen drooping over the ends of the arms of the chair”; “As she went along she steadied herself with her hand, slipped along the papered walls of the hall and breathed with difficulty”.

PP. 16:”When she had reached a safe distance and was about to turn a corner into a second hallway she stopped and bracing herself with her hands waited, thinking to shake off a trembling fit of weakness that had come upon her”; “In the light that steamed out at the door he stood with the knob in his hand and talked”.

PP. 17:”Going to a cloth bag that hung on a nail by the wall she took out a long pair of sewing scissors and held them in her hand like a dagger” (fists).

PP. 18:” On the side streets of the village, in the darkness under the trees, they took hold of her hand and she thought that something unexpressed in herself came forth and became a part of an unexpressed something in them”; “When she sobbed she put her hand upon the face of the man and had always the same thought”; “As a tigress whose cub had been threatened would she appear, coming out of the shadows, stealing noiselessly along and holding the long wicked scissors in her hand“.


The word mother occurs 105 times in Winesburg and a surprising number of characters (Alice Lindman, Enoch Robinson, Joe Welling, Seth Richmond, Dr. Parcival, to name some off the top of my head) are described as living, or having lived, with their mothers. And, like Hands and Adventure, the title of this story underscores a recurring theme of the whole book.

To take a rough pass at what it means, I would say mothers represent a sort of challenge to the young person trying to be an adult, a status quo, into which there is ever a danger of falling back. (I would give Seth Richmond as an example of one who has fallen back). Yet this is not the case with Elizabeth Willard, who rather seems interested in propelling her child into adulthood.

Indeed, all sort of mothers are presented in Winesburg: the passionate Willard and Louise Bentley, the “respectable” mothers Helen White and Wash Williams’ wife, the overpowered mothers of Seth Richmond’s and Louise Bentley. I conclude this would take some doing to unpack.

PAPER PILLS / Dr. Reefy

January 17, 2018

PP. 10: “an old man with a white beard and huge nose and hands“; “The knuckles of the doctor’s hands were extraordinarily large”; “When the hands were closed they looked like clusters of unpainted wooden balls as large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods”.

PP.11: “Sometimes, in a playful mood, old Doctor Reefy took from his pockets a handful of the paper balls and threw them at the nursery man. ” They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy’s hands“; “One of them, a slender young man with white hands, the son of a jeweler in Winesburg, talked continually of virginity”; “At times it seemed to her that as he talked he was holding her body in his hands“; “She imagined him turning it slowly about in the white hands and staring at it”.

Handkerchief: pp. 11


This has some good analysis on Paper Pills. (I had missed that the girl, being revolved in the hand, and bitten, was like an apple herself.)

HANDS / Wing Biddlebaum

January 15, 2018

PP.5: (chapter heading); “whose nervous little hands fiddled about the bare white forehead”; “his hands moving nervously about”; “rubbing his hands together and looking up and down the road”;

PP.6 “Wing Biddlebaum talked much with his hands“; “The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands“; “The hands alarmed their owner”; “the quiet inexpressive hands of other men “; “with his hands pounding busily talked with renewed ease”; “The story of Wing Biddlebaum’s hands is worth a book in itself”; “In Winesburg the hands had attracted attention merely because of their activity”; ” Winesburg was proud of the hands of Wing Biddlebaum”; “As for George Willard, he had many times wanted to ask about the hands“.

PP.7: “Wing Biddlebaum became wholly inspired. For once he forgot the hands.”; “Again he raised the hands to caress the boy “; “thrust his hands deep into his trousers pockets”; “I’ll not ask him about his hands“; “His hands have something to do with his fear of me and of everyone”;

PP.8: “Let us look briefly into the story of the hands“; “Perhaps our talking of them will arouse the poet who will tell the hidden wonder story of the influence for which the hands were but fluttering pennants of promise.”; “Here and there went his hands, caressing the shoulders of the boys”; “In a way the voice and the hands, the stroking of the shoulders and the touching of the hair were a part of the schoolmaster’s effort to carry a dream into the young minds”; “Under the caress of his hands doubt and disbelief went out of the minds of the boys and they began also to dream.”; “I’ll teach you to put your hands on my boy, you beast,”;

PP.9:”With lanterns in their hands a dozen men came to the door of the house”; “one of the men had a rope in his hands“; ” going timidly about and striving to conceal his hands“; “he felt that the hands must be to blame”; “the fathers of the boys had talked of the hands“; “Keep your hands to yourself”; “In the darkness he could not see the hands and they became quiet.” (“fingers of the devotee“)


Notes
The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands… (remarks)

Light and Dark in this story. Having yet to form an opinion on this, I’m inclined to think that Winesburg views darkness as a positive, as it allows individuals to step out and have experiences outside of the view of the people of the town. However, in this story, light appears as a positive in places and darkness appears as a positive in places. George Willard is able to let Wing “venture in the light of day”, which is stated as a good, but also the darkness is able to render the hands quiet, which is stated as neutral or perhaps good. The townspeople who want to string Wing up, hold lanterns, and in the last scene his fingers are flashing “in and out of the light” of a lamp.

Story-telling This chapter seems relatively more self-conscious of story telling than the others. The idea is presented that if the story were really to be told it would be quite a long story. The idea is presented that a poet is need to tell the story properly — that by talking of the hands the poet will be aroused who can tell properly the story of W. Biddlebaum. (Just like, by caressing with his hands, Wing could call forth the dreams of young men.)

Maybe something deeper than I can go here… Talking of the hands will arouse the poet in the narrator who can speak of the wonder story of the influence of the hands of Wing Bidddlebaum; Wing Biddlebaum, with his hands, may call forth the poetry and dreams of George Willard, who is the stand-in for the narrator.

‘Poet’ is not a word mentioned much in the book as a whole… Wash Williams almost achieves poetic stature “by virtue of his hate”, Doctor Reefy is also said to have become almost a poet in his old age. Helen White’s mother has a poetry group for ladies. Jesse Bentley’s father and brother’s were described as being crudely poetic when they got away from the work of the farm.