A Literal Farewell to Arms (An Idiosyncratic Lit List)

January 17, 2014 Idiosyncratic Lit List 52

Greetings Bookworms,

You know how much I love a good list. I participate in Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) regularly. Sometimes, though, I find myself stifled by their topics. In order to keep the meme going, they have to issue very broad topics as prompts so that all sorts of book bloggers can participate. A lot of the lists that percolate in my head don’t fit into such broad topics, nor are they anything anybody else would be interested in writing about… So, I’ve decided to put together my own little feature here at Words for Worms. Idiosyncratic Lit Lists will now pop up whenever I’m feeling listy and/or weird. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy compiling them!


I was having a conversation with a friend recently that devolved into a discussion of books, as often happens. While in the midst of said discussion, it occurred to me that I’d read an awful lot of books wherein major characters have lost all or part of their arms. The idea demanded attention, and so I give you a literal farewell to arms:

armheadstone1. Buddy Junior from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Buddy Junior was begin raised by his mother Ruth and her BFF Idgie in Depression-era Alabama, happy as could be… Until the day he had an unfortunate run-in with the train. Buddy’s arm was the only one in this list to have a proper funeral, and he would go on to be known as “Stump.”

2. Mattie Ross in True Grit by Charles Portis. I should probably issue a spoiler alert here, but Mattie’s arm loss happens at the bitter end of the novel, so it doesn’t wreck any critical surprises. Rattlesnakes are jerks y’all. (My Review)

3. Dana in Kindred by Octavia Butler. At the very beginning of the book, we meet Dana in her hospital room, missing an arm. Apparently it’s a really bad idea to have someone holding on to your arm while you hurtle through the vortex of time and space. It might just get stuck there. (My Review)

4. Fergus in Voyager (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon. I know, I know. Fergus only lost a HAND, not an entire arm, but I’m counting it anyway. Everybody’s favorite former French brothel dweller takes one for the team to protect Jamie from a roving band of English dragoons. On the up side, the hook he gets in place of the hand has a very debonair rakish sort of appeal to it.

5. Orry Main in North and South by John Jakes. All Orry ever wanted to do was be a professional soldier. He makes it through West Point and goes on to face his first real battle in the Mexican-American War… At which point he promptly has his arm blown off. As it’s awfully hard to fire a musket one-handed, Orry is honorably discharged from the military. Sadly, it turns out medals of honor are poor substitutes for appendages.

 Alright Bookworms. You are a well-read bunch. Are there cool fictional characters out there running around without arms that I’ve missed? 

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52 Responses to “A Literal Farewell to Arms (An Idiosyncratic Lit List)”

  1. Tanya

    This made me laugh. I can’t think of any other missing arms, but doesn John Irving have a habit of making his characters loose their … um, member?

  2. Isi

    Oh Katie, what a topic for a list! 😀
    I’ve only read Voyager and yes, fortunately Fergus is still appealing with his hook!

  3. Amy

    This is such a good idea! I can’t wait to see what other different list ideas you come up with!

    I don’t know of any characters that lost their whole arms but the main character in Little Bee by Chris Cleave lost her finger, does that count?

  4. Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

    I must have totally blocked out that Mattie lost her arm in True Grit, because your list had me trying to think about how the armless part came about….

    I often think of things like, “what body part would I be okay with losing” and I guess losing an arm would be better than losing a leg. But I’d want to pick my non-dominate arm to lose… STILL it would totally mess with my typing ability. And I’d be really annoyed to not be able to wear my wedding rings. Hmm… I’d be okay with losing an ear. No wait, then my glasses and sunglasses wouldn’t stay on my face. Well crap, I’d like to keep all my parts.

    • Words For Worms

      Mattie loses her arm at the very very end, practically the epilogue. She gets bitten by a rattlesnake when she falls into the pit. Rooster runs her to the doctor and they save her life, but the arm is collateral damage. Keep your parts Joules! I like you with all your bits and pieces.

  5. Ashley F

    I love that you wrote a whole post dedicated to lost limbs. I freaked when Fergus lost his hand. Every time we talk about these books I go, damn I need a re-read before the next book comes out. I need to make it happen!!!

    Btw….I’m freaking because we don’t get Starz up here and I have no idea how I’m going to watch Outlander. I may need to find a way to do it online!

    • Words For Worms

      I feel like we need to do something Outlandish in honor of the new release, but I’m thinking trying to grow my own penicillin is probably not the best idea.

  6. Megan M.

    This is hilarious! The only ones I can come up with are people losing various limbs in The Walking Dead graphic novels and Jaime Lannister in A Storm of Swords (Game of Thrones series.)

  7. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    OMG! This is brilliant. I’d totally forgotten about Fergus’s lost hand. And the only missing appendage that comes to mind is a leg. The lost one in “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor. Left my students’ mouths all agape when they read it. lol

    • Words For Worms

      Oh dangit! Now that you bring up school, I’m thinking of Beowulf hanging Grendel (or was it Grendel’s Mom) ‘s arm from the ceiling in his hall. I FORGOT GRENDEL!

  8. Megan

    This made me burst out laughing! I love the way your brain works. While I couldn’t think of any characters missing limbs, I could think of characters who had limbs removed. All of those poor civil war soldiers biting on bullets during their amputations in Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND … and that poor woodsman who had his leg sawed off in that awesome, “must read” book MRS MIKE by Nancy Freedman.

    • Words For Worms

      Glad you enjoyed, though there is a fine line between genius and madness… And I’m pretty sure I fall on the madness side… But I’ll take what I can get!

  9. Mabel

    Coincidentally, this is the quote of the day on Goodreads:

    <blockquote."It is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble your foe.” — Anne Brontë

  10. Mandy Boles

    This list is one of the best/funniest things I’ve read today. And yes, fergus’s hand totally counts.

    Fun Fact: My grandparent’s were extras in the mini series North and South in the 80s. My Grandma said some of the costumes were actually from Gone With The Wind.

  11. Christy (A Good Stopping Point)

    Awesome idea for a list! Another I can think of – somewhat spoiler, but for an obscure book: the main character loses her hand in Kim Wilkins’ The Autumn Castle. I was thinking that Miles Roby’s brother lost his arm in Empire Falls, but I looked it up and it was just maimed, not actually gone.

  12. Melinda

    LOL! I haven’t read any of these books or remember a book I’ve read where a character lost his arm. I only remember a book I’ve read where the main character looses his face… 😐

    • Words For Worms

      Oh man, I don’t know if I could handle a dude losing his face… What was that one? Was it Shadow of the Wind? He did pretty much lose his face didn’t he?

  13. Rory

    Okay, so you know I have a strong stomach. I read all the badass literature. 😉

    The one scene that turned my stomach is a bit in Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. I’m near certain that it is not a Katie-appropriate book, but just know that there’s a scene in there where the woman loses a good portion of her hand.

    I too find TTT to be a little limiting. I tend to warp the topic to whatever my intentions are, I don’t get any traffic from TBTB anyway.

  14. Yamika

    Great post. Can’t believe you forgot Mr. Rochester (I’m currently in the middle of my annual Jane Eyre bender)

    Then I though, what about people who lost other stuff? do they count? I’m talking Peeta’s leg in the ‘Hunger Games’ as well as Augustus’s leg and Isaac’s eyes in ‘the Fault in our stars’ It’s only fair I bring up ‘the Fault in our stars’ because I read it because of you.

    • Words For Worms

      OH MY GOSH. ROCHESTER!!! How did I forget?!?! A hand only, but still. I’m ashamed. I might have to do another post with lost legs, I’ve got quite a list going :).

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