Short Story Handout
For the short story section, I’ve asked you to read several short stories. You’ll post about them in the discussion board, but, before you do, here are some things to consider. You don’t have to answer all of these questions, but they may serve as a good springboard for your discussion posts and/or your critical analyses. Remember, and this is important, there are NO wrong answers. As long as you’ve actually read the stories, your opinion is absolutely valid, even if it’s different. Also, please note that this covers both week’s of stories, so please use them accordingly.
The Things They Carried
In this piece, Tim O’Brien uses a listing technique. Why do you think he does that, and what does it accomplish?
O’Brien’s work is often praised for its verisimilitude (fiction that reads like fact), and the way that he blends this element of fact-appearing fiction with actual facts from his experiences in the war. Why do you think he chooses to write about the war in this way rather than simply creating a memoir (entirely based on truth) or creating a strictly fictional story? Why blend the two?
As opposed to your other readings, which are actual short stories, this is an excerpt from a novel. Do you think publishing it as an excerpt in collection of short stories does the story a disservice since novels, by necessity, have a different pacing than short stories, or does it stand on its own?
A Rose for Emily:
How does the style of narration influence our perception of Emily?
Is Emily crazy, or just lonely?
If Emily is crazy, did society make her that way? After all, she had no friends, an overbearing father, and was the constant center of town gossip. Then, she finds the love of her life, and he tries to leave her in a time where being a single woman at her age was something that would have made her constantly ostracized and ridiculed.
How much of Emily’s behavior is the result of internal conflict and how much is the result of societal pressure?
Do you think Homer is gay? Why or why not?
How do you like the structure of the story? Why do you think the author chose to tell it this way?
Faulkner’s works are almost always set in the South. Does setting this story in the South influence your perception of the characters and/or plot in any way?
The Tell-Tale Heart
The narrator in this story is clearly mentally ill. What kind of illness do you think he suffers from?
Why do you think Poe chose to write this story in first person? How do you think it would change the feel of the story if the style of narration was switched?
There is a ton of irony in this story. Any thoughts on why Poe uses irony/what it accomplishes?
A lot of students really love this story. Why do you think it resonates so much with modern audiences?
Poe has a very distinctive writing style. Do you enjoy it? Why or why not?
Did reading about Poe in the author’s powerpoint give you any insight into his writing?
Although this story is more than a bit “out there,” in many ways, it’s actually very relatable. How and why is this so? Note: this question can lend itself to politics, so please be careful and respectful in your discourse.
What do you think is the theme of this story?
Is Harrison really a hero, or is he an egomaniac? Or, is he both? Is it possible to be both?
Typically, science fiction is (perhaps unfairly) excluded from the literary cannon (meaning we don’t often teach it in literature classes). For whatever reason, however, Kurt Vonnegut’s work is an exception. Why do you think this is?
The Story of an Hour
Is the main character heartless? Many students read her that way—after all, she’s far from grieving the loss of her husband, whom she readily admits was kind to her. However, this is not necessarily the case. What do you think?
How does the time period in which the story was written/set influence your view on her?
Why do you think she felt relieved/free following the passing of her husband?
Why do you think Chopin makes a point to tell us the husband was not abusive?
What do you think the theme of the story is? What does the author want us to take away from it?
The Yellow Wallpaper
If the speaker in this story was alive today, what illness would she likely be diagnosed with?
Consider the historical context of this story. It was written at a time when we knew very little about women’s medical issues (side note, did you know that the term “hysterical” stems from an old medical condition that literally translates to “wandering room” and was, according to doctors, an illness brought on by the woman’s womb breaking free and wandering throughout her body? We believed this until only a few centuries ago). When this story was written, the idea of a “rest cure” was common, and, as seen in this story, basically consisted of locking women in a room alone for months at a time. Does knowing all of this impact your view on this story?
Given the historical context, what do you think the author was trying to say?
Is the speaker truly ill at the start of the story, or do you think her illness was the natural byproduct of her “treatment.”
Many students hate this story because the pacing is a bit slower and the description of the wallpaper can drag on a bit. Others love it because of the feminist undertones and the accurate depiction of a person descending into madness. Which camp do you fall into? Why?
Obviously, this story has a lot of similarities to The Hunger Games, although this story came first. Do you think that makes you like it more or less?
The title is quite ironic. How does that influence your perception of, and reaction to, the story?
Although the ending, for most of us at least, is quite shocking, looking back, you’ll see that the author has included several pieces of foreshadowing. Do you like that? Why or why not?
Tessa, by all accounts, is a fairly unlikeable character. Why do you think the author chose to make her that way? How would the story, and your perception of it, change if she was likeable?
What do you think is the point of this story? What is Jackson, to your mind, trying to say?
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