The short story (fiction)
Origin and history
Devices and elements
Part One: Origin
• Folktales, ballads, fables, myths and legends of all nations and all cultures
• Oral tradition
• Printed in the 15th cent.
• as a literary genre all its own ,in the early decades of the 19th cent.
• the short fiction (simple, straightforward narratives in prose or verse) and short
story (consciously organized, highly unified piece of literary craftsmanship) Part Two: Elements of fiction
• Point of view
II The virtue of the elements
• Working tools of authors, critics and intelligent readers.
• The common ground for discussing, describing, studying, and ultimately
appreciating a literary work
• For the readers to organize their responses to a work and to share them with
• Definition: the deliberately arranged sequence of interrelated events that
makes up its basic narrative structure.
Beginning, middle and end
Five distinct sections or stages:
• Exposition: background information, the scene, the situation, action, the
character and the conflict.: Face to Face with Hurricane Camille
• Complication: the rising action that develops and intensifies the conflict
• Crisis: the climax where the plot reaches its point of greatest emotional
intensity; the turning point of the plot which precipitating its resolution.
• Falling action: once the crisis being reached, the tension subsides and the plot moves toward the conclusion
Resolution: the final section of the plot; it is also referred to as the •
conclusion or the denouement (unknotting or untying)
• Exceptions: Epiphany: the crisis in the form of a sudden illumination: Everyday Use by Alice Walker; Araby by James Joyce, the falling action and the
resolution are dispensed with almost entirely.
• Exposition and complication can also be omitted in favor of a plot that begins in medias re (in the midst of things)
The tendency of modern fiction
• Plotless: the author ‘s emphasis is shifted to characters or ideas
• The plot consists of a “slice of life.” e.g. Hills Like White Elephants by
Earnest Hemingway; Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf
• The author eliminates the traditional beginning, but also the ending in order to
focus our attention on a more limited moment of time; limited description and
almost no action; conflict and complication are only revealed, the situation and
the story are to be understood and completed through the active participation
of the reader.
• Chronological plotting: ordering the episodes or events in the order of their
occurrence in time
• Flashback: device that interrupts the flow of a chronologically ordered plot
A Rose for Emily: the shift of the chronology backward and forward in time to •
establish an atmosphere of unreality, build mystery and suspense. Evaluating plot
• Effectiveness: the unity: how does each episode related logically ? • Plausibility: are the events and their resolution guilty of violating our sense of
the probable or plausible? (Chance and coincidence)
• Chance: events that occur without apparent cause or sufficient preparation) • Coincidence: the accidental occurrence of two events that have a certain
1. What is the conflict or conflicts on which the plot turns? Is it external, internal,
or some combination of the two?
2. What are the chief episodes or incidents that make up the plot? 3. Is it development strictly chorological, or is the chronology rearranged in
4. Compare the plot’s beginning and end. What essential changes have taken
5. Describe the plot in terms of its exposition, complication, crisis, falling
action, and resolution.
6. Is the plot unified? Do the individual episodes logically related to one
7. Is the ending appropriate to and consistent with the rest of the plot 8. Is the plot plausible? What role, if any, do chance and coincidence play?
IV. Conflict: (oppositions) the catalyst to generate a sequence of events ; The basic opposition or tension that sets the plot of a short story in motion; it
engages the reader, builds the suspense or the mystery of the work, and
arouses expectation for the events that are to follow
; External conflict :oppositions between the protagonist (Or hero or the focal
character) and some object or force outside him
; Man and nature: The Old Man and the Sea; Man and society: Daisy Miller;
man and man: (protagonist and antagonist): detective stories. ; Internal conflict: (the issue to be resolved within the protagonist himself)
Focusing on two or more elements within the protagonist’s own character:
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darknes
V. Point of View
• Narrative voice, a storyteller
• The method of narration that determines the position, or angle of vision, from
which the story is told.
• Importance: shaping the way in which everything is presented and perceived • The change of the point of view means te change of the story
4 basic types
• Omniscient point of view:
limited omniscient (third-person) •
• first-person point of view
• Dramatic point of view:
Omniscient point of view
• An “all-knowing” narrator, not a character in the story and is not involved in
• Retaining full control over the narrative;
• Enjoys the freedom and flexibility to dramatize or summarizes, to interpret,
speculate, philosophize, moralize, or judge
• Identification with the author’s voice, revealing the author’s values and
Limited omniscient point of view
• A single focal character acting as the center of revelation ( Henry James) • The reader can either have direct access to this focal character’s own “voice”
and thoughts, insofar as these are reproduced through dialogue or presented
dramatically through monologue or stream of consciousness.
• The narrator’s voice is somewhere on the sidelines, the reader become more
directly involved in the task of interpretation
• A minor character who functions in the role of an on-looker, watching,
• Henry James refers to the narrator as “the reflector”, or “mirroring
consciousness.” through whose conscious mind, the story is filtered and
reflected: Young Goodman Brown: “Evil is the nature of mankind”. Things
appear to be-rather than the way that things actually are.
First-person point of view
• Limited information
• Subjective, always subject to hidden bias and prejudices • The sense of immediacy, credibility, and psychological realism,
• Involved into events of the plot: Sammy’s growth and maturation, John
• In retrospective views: James Joyce’s Araby: looking backward at his own
• Telling some one else’s story : Bartelby the Scrivener
Dramatic point of view
• Objective, impersonal
the disappearance of the narrator. •
• The story is allowed to present itself dramatically through action and dialogue • Telling is replaced by showing
The reader is a direct and immediate witness to an unfolding drama without a •
narrator to serve as a guide or mentor
• Appeals to many modern and contemporary writers
• Descriptive details at the beginning og the work
• The reader’s responsibility for analysis and interpretation
• Hemingway’s short story: the psychological and emotional detachment and
self-control to cope with the reality of experience
Analyzing Point of View
1. What is the point of view: who talks to the reader? Is the point of view
consistent throughout the work or does it shift in some way? 2.