Unit Materials

The Lottery

Masque of The Red Death

Lamb to the Slaughter

Into Thin Air

By The Waters of Babylon

Final Assignment

American Classics

To define the "short story," some traditionalists would point back to Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), who believed that a (short) story must achieve a "unity of effect," which is to say that every element of the story contributes to a single mood or theme or intention the one "point" the story makes.

Traditionally, the elements (discussed in detail later) of a short story are as follows:

Plot: the story line, the series of actions and events that move the story from beginning to end. It is what happens.

Character: the actor or actors involved in the story.

Narrator: the person or voice telling the story.

Setting: the site or locale where the story occurs.

Point of View: the perspective from which we see the story unfold. From whose eyes, whose head, do we see the story?

Theme: the idea or message the story imparts. Theme is the product of the reader's interpretation of the story: What does this story mean?

Structure: the shape of the story, how it is built in terms of action (plot) and the sequence of time in which those actions occur.

The traditional short story follows a dramatic structure (the same found in plays), as follows:

1) exposition: an introduction of the characters and a setting of the time and place;

2) rising action precipitated by some complication: the introduction of the conflict or problem, which sets the plot in motion and raises the question, How are the characters going to deal with the problem?

3) climax: the point at which all action peaks, the characters experiencing some kind of crisis; and

4) resolution or denouement: the "unraveling" or clarification of events, when the characters come to terms (but do not necessarily solve) their problems.

Shirley Jackson

"The Lottery"

Edgar Allan Poe

"Masque of The Red Death"

Roald Dahl

"Lamb to the Slaughter"

Jon Krakauer

"Into Thin Air"

Stephen Vincent Benét

"By The Waters of Babylon"