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Colottw (1873_1954)
"The Hand"

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born in Burgundy, in France in 1873 and dead
in 1954. She lived a long and remarkably diverse life and during her career
she supported herself as a novelist music hall performer, and journalist. One
of her best known work was "The Hand" signals a telling moment in the life of
a young bride.

-The gender role in marriage during 1920.

-The wife is the protagonist in this story , she is the central character.

-House "The bedroom"
-20 century.

-3rd person.

1-What is the plot in the story?

2-What is symbolism?
3-What is the strongest symbol in the story?

The Hand of Symbolism (On The Hand, 9/9/08)




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by Pop Culture Literary in Literature-based essays Tags: Colette, essay, Literature, short story, Sidonie-
Gabrielle Colette, symbolism, The Hand

(I do not have a works cited page for this essay, but all quotes from Gabrielle [for those wanting
confirmation] were taken directly from the story itself.)

Carla Vangrove

Amber Paulson

E 140

9 September 2008

The Hand of Symbolism

In Sidonie-Gabrielle Colettes short story The Hand, symbolism is crucial to understanding the
exploration of femininity and masculinity. The husbands hand represents masculinity, and the pink
mentioned in different shades represents femininity. Without understanding the concept of symbolism,
the reader merely sees a story about a woman who picks out peculiar things to be embarrassed about.
What the story truly focuses on is the wifes exploration and discovery of the masculinity which she finds
in her husband versus the femininity in herself.

The pink symbol is established in the first three paragraphs, before the wife has really started her
exploration of masculinity. Their bed is a periwinkle, a color that can either refer to a purple-blue or a
soft pink-purple. This familiar object is periwinkle because femininity is familiar to her. Her mouth,
another familiarity to her, is also described as being pink.

She leaves this familiarity of pink when the curtains are mentioned. Here, her exploration begins. Every
detail counts in a short story, and yet Colette describes that curtains as blue, and brand new instead of
the apricot-pink (Colette 283) that used to hang in the room. Blue is typically associated with being

male. The change from pink curtains to blue represents her transition from only knowing about females
to finding out more about males. She is a newlywed and never had to pay attention to, or acknowledge,
the male aspect of life.

When the wife is done acknowledging the familiar feminine side of life, her attention strays to the
unfamiliar. Her husbands hand takes her attention for the rest of the story, both disgusting her and
holding her interest. The first thing she notices is its size. Men are typically larger than women, both in
body and presence. She recognizes this right away when she says, It really is bigger than my whole
head (Colette 283). She notes its strong appearance and bulging veins, emphasizing that this is a mans
hand. When the screaming of a cars tires interrupts the silence, his hand closes, tensed up in the shape
of a crab (Colette 283) and waits for battle until the car tires are gone. Typically, men respond to
danger and disturbances with a display and preparation of their own strength, should it be needed.

The difference between femininity and masculinity in The Hand displays itself in the middle of the story
when both symbols meet for a mere instant. The wife notes that his nails are varnished with pink, and
makes a note that varnish and pink dont go with a hand so (Colette 283) masculine. Her realization
may not register in her newlywed mind, but as she says this, she reveals the plot to the readers. At first,
the masculinity she discovers frightens the wife and puts her off. By the end, however, she comes to
accept it. Kissing her husbands hand symbolizes her acceptance of the newest element in her life,
completing her journey between pink and hand.

SSRJ#2: Colette

Personal reaction:

The Hand by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette made me feel sad about the idea of how easily someone can
fall out of love for a person. The element which Colette used the best to her abilities that seemed to the
most intriguing to me was the use of symbolism throughout the short story. It reminds me of my sister
who has also known a man for a month yet talking they are discussing marriage.

Literary element:

In the short story The Hand, Colette uses symbolism to her advantage by expressing the idea of being
opposed young people rushing into marriage with falsehood idea of what they think their lover is like
compared to who they really are. In the story The Hand Colette bases the story on a wife who has
married a man she has known for a month and through one night she begins to come with the terms
that she does not know who she married.In the beginning, the wife is smitten and admiring her husband
as he sleeps, as time progresses in the night, Colette makes the character no longer face her new found
lover, and the character begins to notice her husbands repulsive hands. Colette then makes the hand its
own individual entity as she uses it, to waking up to the sound of a screeching car. The idea of the hand
having its own entity symbolizes a side of the husband his new wife did not know about. Through out
the night, the hand takes shape two times the first one is an ape, apes usually symbolize falsehood,
Colette is revealing to her character the man she knows is not the man she loves, and may in fact not be
the man who she thinks him to be. Secondly the hand then takes in form of a crab claw, both animals
crab and ape are aggressive creatures this reveals the man is himself a very dominant and aggressive.
This aggression can also be shown when her husband is laying in bed and the hand has a bad dream it
dug into it (the sheets) with its curved fingers, squeezed, squeezed with the methodical pleasure of a
strangler. This startles the woman showing as she says Oh! the exclamation shows she has not seen this
behavior in her husband.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes? What interested me about Colette's story is the
symbolism of a husband's hand. Used in this way, it disguises the literal interpretation of marriage,
possibly becoming a mockery. Colette allows for the broader interpretation of marriage. She brings
meaning beyond a conventional description of marriage, but not as a necessary institution. In the course
of being together, does love justify a marriage? Colette answers this in a great way by making the
husband's hand more of a symbolic instrument. Her story could be describing power and dominance,
becoming Colette's central theme to the meaning of the story.

'The Hand' describes a newlywed couple, mostly exploring what a very young woman is feeling as she
becomes aware of her new marriage. She lies beside her husband, in cozy but strangely different
surroundings than in what she grew up. While he sleeps, she draws in her mind the details that are
shaping and outlining their estranged marriage. There were details, missed or ignored; but now reveal
the real man she married and whom she knows little of. Her fears pronounce awareness about her
husband's hand: strong and in a disconnect way; it belongs to a man who exercises authority, possibly
unjustly and oppressively. Colette's subtle use of the hand is beyond anatomical: it is the terminal part
of the human arm used for holding and grasping, an instrument used for the good of humanity but also
used to act out harshly and cruelly.

Could Colette be disguising an accurate interpretation of love and marriage between two people:
intending to live together more for sexuality, forsaking principles of domestic partnership? First, comes
love, then comes marriage, and then comes a mockery? 'The Hand' will show you the way.


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