Annotated Bibliography of Classic Short Stories
Classic Western Literature
Annotated Bibliography of Classic Short Stories
Annotated Bibliography of Short Stories
Bashevis, Singer Isaac. “Gimpel the Fool” 1957
This is a story about a man who gets constantly played for a fool by all those around him. The setting is a slowly developing suburban town-like atmosphere, during the early 20th century. The theme of keeping high spirits and not letting others get you down becomes a major illustration in this work. A benefiting influence of faith is shown by the protagonist as Gimpel sets a personal example through his conduct, and the use of self-mastery over his emotions. He decides that it is better to not let negative situations and bad people hurt him (which they aim to do by deliberately engaging him with disrespect). The darker aspects of humanity are given light to through these depraved interactions. He attempts to use logic and reasoning to justify his tolerance for their foolish pestering by relating it to his faith; as he decide to toy with the idea that perhaps these inconceivable acts could happen in a situation unrelated to his, and if they could, maybe he should just deal with them the best way possible. “In the first place, everything is possible, as it is written in the Wisdom of the Fathers.” (Singer 238) His rabbi even told: “it is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil. You are not a fool. They are the fools. For he who causes his neighbor to feel shame loses Paradise himself.” Such deliberate unkindness is an obvious reflection of the perpetrators own low developed self-regard. Some people find it easier to project their own low self-regard to others rather than having a good attitude. It was sad to read how Gimpel was pressured into marriage with a woman who is evil-minded and unsavory. Gothic impact is further compounded when given examples of her cruelness. Her constant infidelities and mental torment sought to hurt Gimpel but, they would not bring him down though -no matter how desperately she tried. This story gives good examples of the Jewish faith. It shows the importance of critical thinking, personal reflection, and to seek wisdom from others when things get tough. The seemingly overriding theme of negativity does not end up dictating the story though, as Gimpel decided it was best not repay harm with harm. This ultimately proves that he is the better person.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour” December 6, 1894,
Upon hearing news of a fatal train accident, Richard decides to rush to the home of Mrs. Mallard to break news of her recent loss. This was not wise because Mr. Mallard was later found to be in good health, and not even aware of the tragedy. The emotional roller-coaster ride Mrs. Mallard was put through strained her nerves so much, she suffered a heart attack. Upon hearing the news she wept with a “sudden wild abandonment” and issolated herself in a locked room.
This setting for this story takes place in an average American home during the latter part of the 19th century. Contributing to an already established gothic theme; gender opression is inferred through examples of how she is suddenly put into a state of self-reflection about her marriage and true level of happines. In that time in history society was largely male dominated and women were treated with lesser status, they could not vote, hold important offices, and were denied social equality. These facts -even though not plainly stated- helps one understand why Mrs. Mallard was in fact, unhappy. This is when it hit her and she realized she was not fully committed to her marriage, and also somewhat bitter as well: “had loved him [her husband]–sometimes. Often she did not.” She sat in deep reflection of the incident and started to get in touch with a deeper sense of relief and joy, which was not strong within her previously. Her husband’s death gave way to a new birth of freedom for her "Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.” (Chopin 160) After experiencing this revelation, she emerged from the room with a “feverish triumph” look reflecting from her eyes as she descended the stairs. Things soon turned for the worst in her mind though. As she got to the base, Mrs. Mallard suffered a heart attack upon seeing Mr. Mallard walk through the front door. He was obviously not dead, a sight perhaps too overwhelming for the suddenly liberated female spirit, as, not only her joy but her physical body got killed right then and there. The doctors said that “she had died of heart disease—of the joy that kills”. (Chopin 161) This work is considered revolutionary because not many authors had the courage to write about the concept of female unhappines, during those times. By bringing the subject to light, other women were able to see that if they were unhappy with their place in society--they were not alone.
Cofer, Ortiz Judith. “Arturo’s Flight”1995
The story depicts a young kid feeling critical about how his parents and other people treat him. The theme of self-idealization is a major component of this work and is further developed trough the struggles he goes through. The setting is a low income Puerto Rican neighbor-hood; it is unwelcoming, cold, and to Arturo, it feels like a maze that's engineered to make the people who live there trapped in a stressful reality. He is one of many who grow up in economically segregated communities. Depictions of limited opportunity and daily struggles people who live there encounter, set the stage for a theme of hardship and help one understand why children like him who grow up in the projects struggle with self-identity. However, the story also illustrates the positive aspects of help and friendship. In a time of crisis, Arturo is befriended by a church custodian named Jonathan. He saw the young boy feeling down and decided to give him some friendly support and good advice, which, ended up making him think twice about running away. The plot of the story unfolds with a classroom recital of poetry that causes Arturo much embarrassment. He is asked to stand in front of his peers and read. They mock and laugh at him, and to add to grief, the torment extends to community perimeters outside the classroom. In response to animosity he takes on the “punk look”, perhaps in hope that others will not see him as a vulnerable target. However, his peers still treat him with disrespect and neighbors acted like he was a nuisance and complained to his parents about his looks. Jonathan told him about personal tragedies him and his family experienced during WWII which made Arturo's problems feel undersized. The young boy was impressed with this older man's ability to overcome struggle and acquired a new found hope to tackle his own problems. He remembered Jonathan's words: “It does not matter where I go, I can always find peace in myself” (Cofer 318). In greater context, this story shows how stereo typing hurts people. It indirectly helps see that in order for society to work we have to try to get along with each other. It is important not to look at people’s differences as distancing factors, rather, as unique attributes and personal prerogatives instead. After all, if we all looked and acted the same things might very well be dull
Ellison, Ralph. “Battle Royal” 1952
The narrator is also the protagonist in this story of youthful reminiscence and struggle it took him to find his identity. It was difficult for him because, social support and opportunity was not readily available to the black community. In those backward days, blacks were discriminated, abused, and deprived of resources. The setting took place in a public place that had been turned into a make-shift boxing ring. A common theme in this story is dealing with cruelty and humiliation. The protagonist was invited to give a high school graduation speech before a crowd of the towns leading white citizens. The plot unfolds when this young man's opportunity for acknowledgement is turned instead, into a cruel joke. It turns out that the Battle Royale was used to provide violent entertainment at the expense of black participants. “When I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker, and I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment.” (Ellison 228) After he suffers injuries, he was finally allowed to give the speech but, only to be met with insults by a bunch of unruly drunkards. To add to torture; the participants were then made to pick up so called "prize" winnings from an electrically charged and damp rug. This story is revolutionary because it uncovers epidemic cruelty blacks suffered at the hands of whites, when society tolerated such evils. The work contains many gothic and dreary elements, but, the subject is used in a matter which both; help provide encouragement and also love for self. The reader is left with little else to do but admire the protagonists’ ability to triumph in the face of such adversity and social injustice.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily” April, 1930
This story explores the gothic aspects about coming to terms with the death of a loved one, and more importantly--how to physically let go of their dead body. Emily is an elderly woman who... for some reason, clings to the corpse of her fiancée and even sleeps next to it. The reader is given a glimpse into her morbid obsession that was probably the result of unhealthy attachment issues. The setting takes place in a fictional place called "Yonknapatawpha County, Mississippi." From beginning to end, death is the major theme. The work starts with the funeral of Emily Grierson, and the plot unfolds as the town prepares to engage in the proceedings. Once looked after by the community as sort of social obligation, the caring of Miss Emily had become tradition: “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (Faulkner 212) However, later she became disregarded and thought mentally disturbed by most, due; to her isolation habits, and the way she didn't like socializing with people. Most people went to her funeral just to satisfy some sense of morbid curiosity since; she had become such a topic of gothic intrigue. Her dilapidated home seemed to add a gloomy allure to an already colorful funeral. People didn’t really have much compassion for her and had already begun to raise eyebrows about the stuff she did. For example; one day when she bought poison at the drug store some said: "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing.” (Faulkner 215) The funeral crowd got more than what they bargained for, though, many were shocked with the discovery of another corpse. Mrs. Emily’s long forgotten fiancé' was also found in another room. It was an area no one--not even her butler had dared to visit. The human head shape indentions on pillows next to it indicated someone had been regularly sleeping in that bed also.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark” 1844.
This story illustrates the importance to try not to look at people’s physical flaws, or imperfections as discouraging factors towards a personal appreciation towards them. It shows how we as humans are far from perfect when it comes to physical beauty, and therefore should not judge others based on aesthetic imperfections. This becomes especially important when it comes to maintaining the bond of marriage. The setting evokes a sense of early twentieth-century life appeal that revolves around the happenings of a scientist’s home laboratory. Aylmer is a man who had a love for the profession of science but also an obsession with perfection. He fell in love with a young beautiful woman, and after much persistence got her to marry him. The plot unfolds when he starts to neglect one of the two areas most important to him and begins developing a distorted view of his love for his wife that was a result from a deep division of self. He would use a birth mark that Georgiana had, as an excuse to distract him from a greater fact that areas of his life needed attending, and he was starting to become an unhappy man. Once he noticed it was like he could not forget it, and would find despise for it beyond all reasonableness, and even related an attachment with the likeness of sin- to it. He developed a fixation with it to the point that he started to see her as undesirable. This made her feel like it was her fault they had problems. Accordingly, she went along with his ridiculous plan to put her through a beauty enhancing cosmetic procedure that would ultimately take her life. It proved fatal since she died of poisoning. Aylmer realized how distorted and terrible he was for killing his wife and was forced to reflect on his sadistic character. This story illustrates the importance in maintaining healthy psychological harmony in marriages, and to learn to check one’s own emotions when they start getting negative. It did it through a gothic and gloomy point of view that evoked strong emotional sentiments, and made one thankful that ethics of modern medical procedures discourage similar scenarios from being played out.
Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” 1933
This story takes place in a diner during the late hours of night and it evokes a feeling of late-night insomniatic ventures. A common theme in this story is that of solidarity, which is shown when one of the two waiters in the story (the older one) can identify with an old man who seems tired and lonely, through his conscientiousness. He is able to gain insight into his situation by the fact that the old man just wants to hang-out in the comfortable atmosphere of a clean and well-lighted place. The younger waiter is quite the opposite; showing only reproach and inconsiderateness as he sees the old man as just some unhappy drunk interfering with his chances to close the diner early so he can be off to bed, which, is perhaps due mostly out of immaturity. The plot unfolds as these two waiters find time in their shift to converse about how they view the old man’s situation and then try collectively to make sense of it, even though they end up having differences in opinion. This story also helps to provide a style of proper conduct. The older waiter sees that the diner serves a purpose; it is there specifically so people like this old man could have a place to go and feel comfortable. No matter how bad they may both want to close early and go home, it is their responsibility to provide a service. Nothing is an important word in this story, and helps to end the story with an element of paradox. According to the young waiter the old man was very unhappy and even suicidal, but, when asked by the older waiter to define what the cause was, all he could say was “nothing”. He reasons that it had to be nothing because the old man had plenty of money and material happiness. This proposes a paradox of seeing that the emotional state of despair has no cause, and that instead of trying to make sense of life’s mysteries, he finds it better to stand before them quietly. The work takes readers into the minds of two opposing perspectives of the same ethnic groups, which even though have different insights; try to analyze those of an individual form a different ethnicity. It shows how certain social situations usually play out inside the nocturnal businesses that other people can’t be awake to see.
Jewett, Ornet Sarah. “A White Heron” 1886
In this work; Sylvia, a young girl who leaves the busy chaotic surroundings of California city life has gone to live in the New England wilderness with her grandmother. The theme of love for nature becomes related when we read about how she is taken by the peaceful and tranquil surroundings of farm life. We also get a good sense of positive childhood role play, as even the daily task of caring for the family cow becomes an adventure in itself. One day she encounters a bird hunter known as the “stranger” who befriends her and her grandmother and becomes forced to make a decision about aiding in his worldly pleasures which go against what she has begun to appreciate. He wants information on how to find the location of a bird he wants to kill and add to his collection, and even offers a reward of ten dollars if she can help. She has personal knowledge of where a nest might be and initially agrees to help him. Early one morning, while all in the farmhouse are asleep she makes her way towards a very tall tree where she believes a nest can be found from. She climbs to the top and eventually spots one, but decides not to tell the hunter where the bird can be found. The money is not as important to her as saving the Herron’s life, as she expresses an inability to help locate the bird. This bothers the hunter and he expresses his disappointment with her. This story touches an element of common sense; the hunter should have known that the young girl had a love for animals, and asking her to contribute to the killing of one was not a good idea. He should have not been so disappointed when she didn’t help him locate his chosen prey, because it is only common-sense that not all people can be corrupted through money. Even though this work has a lot to do with how animals can sometimes be killed for sport, there is an undeniable positive theme that is overriding. Dark aspects of literature that are introduced do not have overpowering effects.
Joyce, James. “Araby” 1914
This work writes about the common attributes and youthful frustrations that young boys experience as they go through puberty. The setting is an American suburb on the street of North Richmond. The story is about a young boy who has a joyful spirit and is just discovering his sexual identity, he enjoys time with his friends playing in the streets and having good times with them. This is encouraging for all people in his neighborhood, since they are the life of it. Words like feeble, muddy, and somber are used to provide a gothic perspective of how the environment appears, and how the character interacts with it: like when walking “through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men a bargaining women, amid the curses of laborers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guards by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, and the nasal chanting of street-singers”. (Joyce 166) He develops a sort of youthful love towards a fellow teenager’s sister, and would often observe her from a distance. He would think of her image often, and found it would bring comfort to him even in the midst of the most inhabitable social situations. Finally, he had a chance to speak directly to her. They talked about a Bazaar called Araby. He said he would go and even promised to bring her something. He was relying on his uncle to give money for this activity trip to Araby, but his uncle was late, not arriving until the bazaar was almost over. A feeling of inconsiderateness is felt because the uncle seemed not to care too much about the boy’s wishes to go to the bazaar, and how important it was for him- even though he they had made an agreement. It turns out that he got to the bazaar close to lights out and he really did not have time to buy anything. This made him upset and he was misguided towards reflecting on the whole situation as one that was driven by vanity. This leads to an aspect of frustration being introduced at the end of the story, when at the bazaar; the young boy’s self-reflection was done in self-defeat when he mixed up the unfortunate circumstances of his night (uncle being late, bazaar closing) with his personal feelings towards the young girl. This text illustrates important themes in the life of young people, such as; having a good view of life even through disadvantaged economic situations, problems with idealization, and experiencing the realities of love- not what we hear in stories or fairytales.
Kafka, Franz. “The Metamorphosis” 1915
The story symbolizes a young man (Gregor) who is forced to work “like a bug” for the financial needs of his family. The protagonist ends up becoming a victim to the social pressures around him, and accordingly, sees him-self metaphorically turning into a bug. He was well intended young man who tried to support the family’s needs, since, they were in debt. The common theme of metaphorical transformation in this story starts one morning when he found himself drained of all spiritual energy, feeling very weak and unmotivated. His body then started to “shut down”, which was due mostly to the fact that He had not taken any time off from work in the past. The setting takes place in Gregors room mostly, but, also includes some of the other areas of his family’s apartment. A melancholy perspective is further provided through this text, as Gregor’s condition only worsened. He began to lose appetite, sanity, and family support (even though he probably never had much family support, only encouragement to continue providing financial support). This is when he saw himself becoming some sort of an insect creature, and thus, started acting like one. His family could not understand him and did not want to really try, -which adds a sense of cruelty to the story-. His family was then forced to go out and get jobs to better their economic situation; meanwhile, they found it much easier and convenient to distance him physically and emotionally, encouraging him to confine himself to his room. His sister who was closest to him suggested to her parent’s that they should “just get rid of it” which ultimately broke his heart, due to her being the closest to him. It was not much later when he was found dead in his room by the cleaning lady. This style of this story is full of dark and gloomy literary elements of imagery, that when used, do not provide any type of encouragement whatsoever $6 except, maybe in giving many examples of very unfortunate circumstances, and therefore, make Kafkas’ overriding message to first work for yourself and not for the inconsiderate needs of others, much more of an important ideology.
Lewis, Trudy. “Limestone Diner” October 2004.
The narrator tells a story of a tragic accident that happened to a young girl named Kris, who was a member of the local high school girls softball team. Lorraine is perhaps the main character in the story and is impacted by the death, which in turn, makes her re-live a similar loss that she went through many years ago. The plot unfolds as she finds herself at the accident scene trying to piece together the wreckage in hopes to understand how things happened. She makes a habit of engaging herself emotionally with other people’s business; perhaps out of overwhelming curiosity, or because she lacks meaning and purpose in her own life -either way- this highlights the nosy aspect in which intrusive old ladies from small and slow-paced towns, but into other lives because they really have nothing better to do. The setting is a small town in Missouri during soft-ball season. The theme of group unity is expressed by the fact that the whole team is brought closer together due to their tragic loss of a teammate. They collectively decide to get tattoos in memory of their departed friend Kris, and managed to shock their parents along with other adults, in turn. Lorraine feels a need to associate herself to this softball team and is very persistent in hanging around them , perhaps because she views that it can help fill the void which started when she lost her daughter 29 yrs ago. She manages to follow pretty much everywhere they go, offering her domestic and food services. Through her personality, this story provides great examples of witty dialogue and funny anecdotes like: “Let an old woman have her meditation, sister,” (Lewis 325) “Otherwise, I might be tempted to give you a jagged piece of my mind,” (Lewis 335) and “go and get it while it’s hot.” (Lewis 335) Group identification through common interest is also shown as the girl’s of the softball team acquire collective traits of dress, dialect, and style- through the influences of a rock band that Kris had turned them on-to. This work contains tragedy, and other gloomy perspectives which give insight to the monotony of daily life in a small town, but, manages to convey somewhat of a humorous view to them, which in-turn combats most sense of negativity. For example: the dark humor in which Lorraine’s family is depicted; with her mother’s viscous commentary habits, her cousins divorce from a drunken auto repairman, and her relative Paul who managed to “knock up” his junior high girlfriend- all provide cheap laughs for the reader. Lewis tells a story in which people in a rural American town often use humor during tragedy, to help maintain healthy perspectives, even though situations make it difficult to do so.
Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener” 1853
A common phrase in this story “I prefer not to” relates to the personal reasoning’s of a man who does not want to give self -power away to the workings of circumstances that come up in his life, and is not in agreement with .The story takes place in big-city metropolis and relays an atmosphere of hustle and bustle pace of life. Bartleby gives insight into an enigmatic and eccentric character, which stirs up great intrigue from the reader. One is tempted to make haste judgments about his personality -for the worst- since, Bartleby acts with disengagement and isolative type responses when other people try to interact with him. It is not clearly known why he views others requests or work related directives to be so potentially harmful to him that he decides to disengage from them, but, it can be reasonable to assume that he does it out of prerogative, or perhaps to protect his emotions. When circumstances call for him to wander outside of his “comfort zone”, he starts to withdraw both emotionally and socially. As it is later explained; Bartleby may have suffered trauma as a result from the loss of his job as a clerk for the Dead Letter Office in Washington; which seemed to have affected all areas of his personal life along with emotional states. The lawyer portrays an affectionate character that does not choose to bring about unfavorable circumstances to Bartleby even though he cannot reason with him or get some type of insight into his afflicted mind state. This was not usual since in these earlier times, people were far less conscientious towards one another. Dark elements are brought into play towards the end of the story when Bartleby is involuntarily committed into incarceration. It turns out that people figured that since he was so extraordinarily difficult to understand, it was better to remove him from society. This gives light to the workings of mob-type mentality ideologies related to persecution of emotionally disadvantaged individuals.
Mukherjee, Bharati“A Wife’s Story” 1988
This story starts off exemplifying the harsh realities of stereotyping and racism, as displayed through a comic stage, in a theater. An India woman and her friend bought tickets to see a show that would ultimately have a humiliating effect on her culture and make Patel feel very angry and awkward. She is pretty much forced to sit there and watch, while the people next to them seem to be aloof to the situation, but feel like they have to stare at them some. A feeling of self-respect is transferred to the reader when she maintains her composure and chooses to act like dignified person. After the show, Imre tells her that she should liven-up and not take things so seriously. The story takes a brighter direction as they engage in joyous interaction and change each other’s moods for the better. The plot unfolds as we later learn that she comes from a traditional Hindu family who had arranged her marriage. This is when the difficulties for her to adapt to social diversity become relevant, since, there are many obvious factors that can have hindering effects on her from this difficult situation. A sense of sorrow is encouraged for the protagonist since we also learn that she is away from her family, and does not have too much social support in her immediate surroundings to help her get through though times, and the tragedies she hears about back at home do not help to ease her situation either. When her husband makes a trip to come see her, he is also brought into awareness of how socially diverse America is. She realizes that they had been a part for what seems to be too long, as basic shopping becomes an area that proves to be somewhat unharmonious. They make somewhat of a vacation of his trip to see her, taking sightseeing tours, visiting theaters, and going out to dine. The reader gets an understanding of how awkward it can be, for couples from countries that have rigorous conformity of social and gender traditions, to see the normal workings of things here in America and take them in as acceptable. We can see how styles in: fashion, social interaction, and freedom of self-expression can be difficult because they do not generally fall into the established patterns of understanding, or predictability that they are used to. This work gives insight into the thoughts of foreigners as they first come to view our American society, and it is refreshing to see how other individuals analyze American culture.
O’Connor, Flannery. “Good Country People” 1955
O’Connor’s story delves into family personalities that have learned to coexist with each other amongst difficulties of character which prove to hinder functuality. Mrs. Hopewell learned to be easy-going with people because of past difficulties but, was somewhat stuck in her ways. The theme of making personal judgments about people is shown through her as she considers herself to be most accurate when it comes to judging people. She claims that the act of being “simple country folk” a prerequisite to universal goodness. The story unfolds through her inter actions with Joy, (daughter) as they show to have an underlying theme of growth-suppression, that made it apparent it was not only difficult for Joy to mature in her mother’s views, but, also hard have a good attitude around her “It was hard for Mrs. Hopewell to realize that her child was thirty-two now and that for more than twenty years she had had only one leg. She thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times.” (O’Connor 250) She also treated joy with general insincerity and was hesitant about judging herself and the way her interactions impacted their relationship. Her judgment was clouded and it would cause her to be misleading by a young bible-selling con-artist who seemed like “good country folk” to her. He tried to get close to Joy so he could later take advantage of her. He seduced her then managed to take her artificial leg away, and kept it as some sort of sick trophy. This story uses a lot of dark elements throughout it all. The work portrays a common reoccurring perspective of irritability. The characters in it have developed an abnormal level of cohabitation with each-other a midst the backwards type of social interaction they have become used to engaging in. It takes the reader into the minds and thought patterns of people that are truly “stuck in their ways”; no matter how erroneous they prove to be. It truly does not do much to help distance negative stereotypes away from country folk which some people have developed distasteful perspectives of.
Poe, Allan Edgar. “The Purloined Letter” January 1845
This story is a skillful piece of nineteenth-century crime drama ratiocination that is written with much intuitive intellect, which, is not only thought evoking, but will also keep you well entertained with plenty of dictionary engagement. Poe does not neglect to use humor in unraveling the plot, showing a funny side to high profile political extortion along with three-stooges like depiction of conceited cops. Also noteworthy is the fact that the story is able to achieve effective suspense perspectives without having to be of a gothic genre. The story takes place in nineteenth century Europe. Poe was hanging out and relaxing with his friend Dupin when their Parisian police friend by the name of Monsieur G threw open the door. He wanted to consult with Dupin about official business. He tells them that an important document was taken from the royal apartments and that they know who did it and where he has it, but due to the scandalous nature of the situation, they wanted to retrieve it in secret. A high political personage wants the letter back desperately, because of the damning information it pertains. Highly motivated by the reward, Dupin made a deal with him to solve the mystery. Sometime passed before the perfect consulted him again, but this time, Dupin said if he wrote him a check he would provide the letter that was so desperately sought. He did and Dupin handed him the letter. The perfect was thunderstruck for a moment about how his friend had achieved success with this task that had been nearly impossible for him to accomplish. Dupin explained to Poe how the perfect failed to solve the crime, and what his failures were; “the perfects measures were well executed but, the Prefect and his cohort fall so frequently, first, by default of identification, and, secondly, by ill-admeasurements, or rather through non-admeasurements, of the intellect with which they are engaged. They consider only their own ideas of ingenuity; and, in searching for anything hidden, advert only to the modes in which they would have hidden it.” He goes to explain how he found the letter through his own investigation and observation skills. This work is an example of early detective thrillers which aims at keeping readers intrigued with critical thinking strategies. The story was difficult to read because it contained conversational skills that are pre-dated and confusing. I had to re-read certain areas to get a closer understanding of it. The overarching message in the story is that the author finds interest in showing-off how smart he is by using his intelligence to outwit others, and in turn, belittle their naiveté’s- through the use of comic relief.
Porter, Ann Katherine. “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” 1930
This story deals with coming to terms with death. Granny Wetherall is an old woman spending her dying days confined to a type of bed-ridden existence. The setting is the home of her daughter Cornelia where granny was now being looked after. The plot unfolds as the family doctor comes to make a routine inspection of her health. Granny does not appreciate the way in which the doctor treats her, and generally applies the same feeling for those around her as well. His constant joking manner is met with her disapproval, because she feels like he is belittling her sense of intellectuality. The theme of emotional unhappiness is shown by the fact that granny struggles with her happiness, and is in constant distrust with the people around her; who’s intentions she re evaluates because she feels like they see her as a burden and are just trying to put up with her. This story is riddled with disillusion. Granny reflects on her past failed love, who had left her at the altar. Even though she sees herself to have been able to carry on a meaningful existence without him, she reverts back to the past as though she is trying to find closure to the harm that she went through. She is forced to deal with the fact that she never really got over him dumping her, but, realizes that she is going to die in the not too distant future, and that she better try to deal with it the best she can. Finally, when death comes she is not ready for it “”I’m not going, Cornelia. I’m taken by surprise. I can’t go” (Porter 210). Not only does this work drag you down, but it also has a tendency to make you want to slap yourself, -maybe twice or so- because this situation makes little sense. People live life, get old, and die. It really is that simple- that’s why it is better to live a life you can be happy about, -forget about letting emotions turn for the worst and end up becoming a by-product of bitterness- life is too valuable for that. No use in trying to mend emotional baggage which has been damaged long-ago, when it’s time to take that final trip to the ever-after.
Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums” 1937
The setting is during wintertime in Salinas Valley California during the early 20th century. The subject of limitations and opportunities is a common theme in this story and one that Elisa Allen Frequently encounters. She is a mild mannered woman who is introduced in the beginning while she is working on her flower garden. She is the picture of good physical health and constructive vigor, and clearly lacks no opportunities to live a fulfilling life. Her husband Henry praises her on being such a talented lady “You’ve got a gift with things. Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across.” (Steinbeck 219) The plot unfolds as a travelling sales man approaches her farm while her husband is away, and tries to solicit his services to her. She illustrates that she really has no need to spend money on anything at the moment, but, decides to give him some work because she feels sorry for him. This is when the narrator begins to play on the emotions of the reader by conveying a situation where a person is in a state of vulnerability, and seeking the comfort or encouragement of another person. Mrs. Allen meets this opportunity with genuine dignity as she treats him with respect, but, knows how to also handle herself respectably by not acting improper. She understands that she needs to provide limitations so the friendly gesture of courtesy does not escalate towards the area of discomfort. The man decides to flatter her with his conversational skills in attempt to show appreciation for the work opportunity, and even manages to get her to give him some chrysanthemums buds to take home for his wife. This interaction provided a positive opportunity for two people to engage in meaningful interaction which was mutually constructive. She had got the chance to help, and he of being helped. This changed the monotony of the day, since it provided variety for Mrs. Allen. She was also reminded of her natural beauty, which made an even better impact on her day. Later that evening as her and her husband drive to town, she see’s that her chrysanthemums were thrown on the road. She realized that the man was just faking being nice and only really wanted the pot that the flowers were in. This does not make her sad though, she was in a good mood and that was that! The story pictures a wonderful vibe of married life that shows a relationship with no gender oppression. Mr. and Mrs. Allen are depicted to be harmonious and genuinely appreciative of each other’s company.
Tolstoy, Leo. “The Death of Ivan Illych” 1886
In Tolstoy’s first piece of fiction, the theme of morality seems to be most targeted. Ivan is the central character and when his death reaches his colleagues, the superficial realities of upper-class perspectives are shed into light when instead of truly mourning for their collogue, they wondered how the post would be re occupied and how it would affect them. Tolstoy describes the privileged life of the rich, as he tells us about Ivan. He was the most distinguished of three sons born into the higher social class of Russian society. Ivan met an early death at 45 while serving as a court justice, however, he did not live a life free from corruption, but, felt that his actions were justifiable because he was of higher social class - and those like him had heightened air of respectability which gave him enough power over others to pretty much do whatever he wanted- however, he prided himself on not ever abusing his power. This goes to show the dark and distorted reasoning that corrupt people use to justify their disgraceful behavior. The emphasis on this distorted sense of morality is perhaps the overriding theme of this work, and shows how it is also carried into family life, as Ivan’s marriage became tainted with inconsiderateness, false pretenses, and gender suppression. It was not long before the marriage was emotionally disillusioned by jealousy, contempt, and irritability. We are also shown the results of sinful existence when his entire existence became over powered with bitterness and uncontrollable anxiety - even when pleasant opportunities were realized- they would soon be destroyed by his negativity as the joy was too much for him and his wife to deal with on a functional basis. Ignorance also becomes a highlighted fact as he chooses playing whist with his colleagues as a form of therapy, instead of finding other resolution for his problems. It was this ignorance that would lead him to suffer an accident that would turn out to be fatal. He found himself getting sicker and dying. He knew he was dying but could not grasp the idea, as he started to reflect on his life he realized it lacked true happiness. When he started to crave attention from others he quickly realized that it was not genuine and this only made him angrier, since, he could tell his daughter and son felt uncomfortable and scared around him. Ignorance once again becomes displayed in literary form, as it suddenly occurred to him that “he had not lived as he should have,” (Tolstoy 146) but immediately sheltered his ego with denial recalling “how correct his whole fife had been and dismissed this bizarre idea.”(Tolstoy146) This is a sad story overruled with gothic impact, it serves a purpose to show people what not to do with their married lives, and how not to value materialness over healthy living. It goes to exemplify how dignity is not something pertaining to a higher social class or economic situation and that the seemingly “perfect” people are actually the ones that have total “imperfectness” in their lives.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use” 1973
In this story, Mrs. Walker tells how two daughter’s sense of cultural identity ultimately puts them in conflict with each other because; negative aspects of early life experience were allowed to create friction within the family bond.
The story takes place in early 20th century. The setting; a family home found in one of America’s southern states. The dialogue is narrated by their mother as she witnesses the home coming of her accomplished older daughter Dee. As she waits her arrival, she reminisces about past tragedies. She remembers the day their home was burned to the ground and younger daughter Maggie was injured--a family tragedy for sure. Dee however, dances around the ashes in joy; a metaphor of new found freedom by watching the destruction of a place which held so much misery for her as a child. There she sits in a beautifully prepared yard waiting her daughter’s arrival. The plot unfolds as Dee pulls up in her fancy car driven by her private chauffer. Arrogance overpowers her character as she exits the automobile with an exaggerated sense of importance. The reader is given insight into her higher sense of class, through, the ways she flaunts her privileged life-style. Dee portrays herself with prosperity and self-achievement and chooses the family residence to showcase her triumph, -as if to say- “look how rich I've gotten, while you all are still in poverty”. The family also learned that she changed her name because it was one given by the “oppressor”. Maggie didn't really know how to react to Dee's homecoming because she didn’t understand the significance of Dee's educational accomplishments, and more importantly; how they liberated her mind from historical bonds of racial oppression. Maggie was still living in a sheltered reality and didn't see how generations of slavery really hurt people. It didn't hit her that it's probably easier for Dee to flaunt around them because she feels safer, or that Dee was disappointed to see her family lacked what she now had. Not enough insight about Dee's thoughts are given to really know why she acted that way, but, it does become apparent that she should have behaved kinder. The main event in the story happens when Dee asks her mother to hand over the family heirloom--a quilt. The mother denies, saying it's reserved for Maggie instead. This upsets Dee because she claims her younger sister is too "ignorant" to take proper care of it. In this work, the importance of maintaining family unity through changing or troubling times becomes a central theme--even though it's not directly stated. It's clear the family experienced many hardships and difficult situations due to poverty and other ills of society, because, it seemed like things would have been different if all had the same opportunity for success. For Dee, social progress meant that she had to distance herself from the past. Unfortunately, the very same process distanced her family as well. They had a difficult time trying to figure out where she was coming from, and found it unappealing for the most part.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour” December 6, 1894, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City MO
Joyce, James. “Araby” 1914, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Tolstoy, Leo. “The Death of Ivan Illych” 1886, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Ellison, Ralph. “Battle Royal” 1952, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Porter, Ann Katherine. “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” 1930, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily” April, 1930, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums” 1937, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
O’Connor, Flannery. “Good Country People” 1955, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Bashevis, Singer Isaac. “Gimpel the Fool” 1957, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Cofer, Ortiz Judith. “Arturo’s Flight”1995, Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
Lewis, Trudy.“Limestone Diner” October 2004, , Hall, Prentice, Literature Portfolio, 2007, Kansas City, MO
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