Bewildering Stories welcomes...
Edward H. Garcia
Ed Garcia has advanced degrees from Ohio State and the University of Texas. He is now retired from teaching composition, literature aned creative writing in the Dallas County Community College District. He has published many reviews and articles as well as poetry and short stories.
“The Right Hand” is, in a way, a “story about a story.” Dr. Dietrich, a surgeon, explains to his friend, the narrator, why he is missing parts of his right hand. The doctor’s father’s stern admonitions remain as a kind of surrogate conscience, and whenever the doctor inevitably transgresses one or another of his father’s dictates, he cuts of part of his right hand as a sacrifice.
What does the doctor do to think he deserves to mutilate himself? He gives one example, and that should be sufficient. After all, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray does not tell us what he does to disfigure the portrait hidden in his attic. Today’s readers can surmise what Dorian Gray was doing, but it’s really irrelevant; as with Dr. Dietrich, the nature of conscience is the important thing.
The Readers’ Guide and Challenge refer to the verse in Mark 9:43: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.” Now that’s original fire and brimstone.
But what does it mean? Dr. Dietrich takes it literally, and we may expect that he’ll eventually have no hands left to cut off. Rather, the stern injunction is an implied a fortiori argument, which is part of Jesus’ trademark style. “Of course you don’t want to cut off your hand. All the more reason, then, to avoid using it to do bad things.”
Dr. Dietrich’s father was categorical and unforgiving. His black-and-white morality left no room for dilemmas and ambiguities. He would have been the one to “cast the first stone.” Dr. Dietrich shows that’s no way to live.
Edward H. Garcia’s bio sketch can be found here.
Welcome to Bewildering Stories, Ed. We hope to hear from you again soon and often!
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