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Transcript of Short Stories
is the action of the story; It is what happens in the story.
A. The sequence of events is called the
(1) The most common type of narrative order is
. In this case, the events are told in the order they happen.
occurs when the author narrates an event that took place before the current time of the story.
occurs when the story skips a period of time that seems unusual compared to the rest of the plot. There is no standard amount of time that might constitute a time lapse; it depends upon the reader's sense that a longer than ususal period of time has passsed since the previous episode.
can be divided into these
is the struggle between the protagonist and an opposing force. There are several types of conflict:
(a) Internal conflict or
, occurs when the protagonist struggles within himself or herself. The protagonist is pulled by two courses of action or by differing emotions.
(b) Interpersonal conflict, or
, pits the protagonist against someone else.
(c) Conflict of
happens when the protagonist is in conflict with the values of his or her society.
(d) Conflict of
takes place when the protagonist is threatened by an element of nature.
(e) Conflict of
occurs when the protagonist must contend with a fact of life over which he or she has little control, such as terminal illness or a disability.
usually occurs at the beginning of the story where the reader is introduced to the characters, setting, and other background information.
of a plot usually begins with a problem which the protagonist must meet or solve. During the story, tension is built through a series of complications, incidents which either help or hinder the protagonist in finding a solution.
of a story is the peak or turning point of the action where decisions are made to resolve the conflict. It can be a meeting of two conflicting characters, a decision made by the main character, or the defeat by or victory over nature or society by the main character.
) provides any necessary explanation, "untangling of the knot," before the end of the story.
occurs at the end of the story and may come in one of three ways:
the various parts of the plot are tied together satisfactorily and the reader feels a sense of completion;
where readers must draw their own conclusions and they do not know what will happen;
where the story comes to an abrupt ending at an exciting and dangerous time in the plot.
The setting can be a geograpical location (country, state, or city), a temporal location (present day, past, future), or it can be a very specific location (a farm, a law firm, or a battlefield).
The setting of a story is important because it often determines how characters will act, or it gives the reader clues as to how to expect them to act.
--the setting of a story is where the story takes place.
A. We use the following terms when talking about setting:
: The setting can reflect the overall mood of the story and it can reflect the personality of the characters in the story. A lonely, desolate setting may represent lonely, desolate characters.
: The setting may shape characters and make them act the way they do. Think of how characters will differ depending on whether they grew up on a farm, in a tough inner-city neighborhood, or in a luxurious mansion. Typically, characters will act and react a certain way because of the setting in which they live. However, many characters will react against their setting and try to escape its mold.
: The setting can often be a fantasy-like escape, taking the reader to imaginary worlds, whether in the past or the future. But don't always be fooled. Sometimes these escape settings are just creative mirrorings of our own world.
: Many times the setting will be hostile to the character who is an outsider, exile, or refugee. These types of settings emphasize the loss of roots or a sense of home.
, of course, are the people in the story. They are the ones who move the plot along and interact within the setting. The traits of a character can be revealed through the their own actions, speech, and appearance. Traits can also can be revealed through the comments of other characters and of the author.
types of characters
appear in many stories:
is the central character (person, animal, or personified object) in the plot's conflict.
is the force in conflict with the protagonist. It may be society, nature, or fate, as well as another person. It can also be the protagonist himself (or herself), if he (or she) has an internal conflict.
is a character whose traits are in direct contrast to those of the principal character. The foil, therefore, highlights the traits of the protagonist. The foil is usually a minor character, although if there are two protagonists, they may be foils of each other.
is a chacter who possesses expected traits of a group rather than being an individual. Using stereotypes is usally considered an indication of poor quality, especially in cases such as members of minority groups, people with disabilities, or women. However, stereotypes can be useful in furthering the story quickly and are acceptable in minor roles if they do not provide hurtful portraits of the groups in question.
amount of character development
affects the quality of the story.
, also called stock characters, are one dimensional. They are typically the minor characters in the story. We can predict how they will act and they will always act the same. They are wither "good," "bad," "funny," or "mean," but ususally not in combination. Often you can label a stock character with a gneeric name like "grumpy old man," "nagging mother," or "town gossip."
are multidimentional and have many traits (sometimes conflicting). They are typically the main characters in the story. The reader will not always be able to predict how a round character will act. Round characters seem more human and real compared to flat characters.
amount of change
in a character over the course of the story also affect its quality.
does not change in the story. He, or she, is the same peraon in the end as he, or she, was in the beginning.
goes through some sort of change in the story (for better or worse) and is not the same person at the end of the story as he, or she, was at the beginning. Typically, the main character will go through a change and that is what makes the story interesting for the reader.
IV. To determine the
point of view
, the reader must ask:
Who is telling the story?
How much is he or she allowed to know?
To what extent does the author look inside his or her characters and report their thoughts and feelings?
A. Point of view may be:
--a character tells the story using the pronoun "I."
--the author speaks directly to the reader using the pronoun "you."
--the author tells about the characters using the pronouns "he," "she,"or "it." There are three types of third person point of view:
--the author tells the story from the viewpoint of one of te characters in the story by looking through the eyes and into the mind of the character. He/she tells what the character hears and sees and thinks and feels. He/she shows no knowledge of what the other characters are thinking or feeling or doing, except what the chosen character knows or infers.
--the story is told by the author, where his/her knowledge is unlimited. He/she is free to go wherever he/she wishes, to peer inside the minds and hearts of his/her characters at will and tell the reader what they are thinking or feeling. He/she can interupt their behavior and he/she can comment on the significance of the story he/she is telling. He/she know all.
--the author disappears into a kind of roving camera. The camera can go anywhere, but can record only what is seen and heard. It cannot comment, interpret, or enter a character's mind. The reader is placed in the position of a spectator at a movie or play.
B. Types of Narrators:
One important question to ask about any narrator is whether he or she is reliable or unreliable. Just as we consider the "source" when we are told real life stories, we should also consider the source when reading literature. In other words, we should consciously judge the characer of any narrator.
seems to be trusworthy, aware of what is true and untrue, and we believe that the narrator not only knows the truth, but is also sharing it with readers. (Usually, we trust a 3rd person omniscient narrator to be knowledgable and truthful.)
is not trustworthy. A narrator may be a liar or may show evidence of such bias that we come to distrust that narrative voice. A narrator could even be insane. (Do you trust all of Edgar Allan Poe's narrators? Many of them are 1st person narrators. Because thaey are so involved in the story, they may no be perceiving events or other characters accurately or they may have a reason for withholding the truth.)
just does not understand events, even though he or she may be the narrative voice whom we must depend upon to tell us the story. (If a story is told by a child or a mentally handicapped individual, for example, events of the story or the actions and even words of other characters might be misconstrued.
is the underlying meaning of the story, a universal truth, a significant statement the story is making about society, human nature, or the human condition. As opposed to plot, which answers the question: "What happend in the story?," theme answers the question: "What does the story mean?"
A. Types of themes:
is one that is fully and clearly expressed and will be openly stated on the pages of a work.
is one that is not directly stated, but the reader must infer.
is a setting, object, character, or event in a story that carries more than the literal meaning and therefore represents something significant to understanding the meaning of a work of literature. In other words, symbols always have a literal (concrete) meaning and a figurative (abstract) meaning. The story will provide a clue that a detail is to be taken symbolically by emphasis, repetition, or position.
A. Symbols may be:
is one that is widely recognized by a society as a symbol. For example, a country's flag is a symbol of the country itself as well as the characteristics associated with that symbol. (The flag of the United States represents our country, but it also represents "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.")
(2) In some stories, symbolism comes from a
(a repeated gesture or act). For example:
thumbs up = approval
finger to lips = be quiet
shrug = indifference, resignation
wink = a secret meaning, flirtation
(3) If the symbol is a place, it is called a
. For example:
forest = mystery, evil
desert = isolation, alienation, lonliness
garden = paradise
(4) If there does not seem to be a literal level for a story's symbol--if it seems to be one extended set of symbols, a universal meaning, or represents general truths or abstract concepts about the human condition--the story is termed an
B. Why do authors use symbols?
(1) Symbols are nonintrusive ways of getting meaning across. Most readers hate being whacked over the head with obvious "messages" and symbols are ways of telling a reader something without having to come right out and state it directly.
(2) Symbols work in conveying meaning because or unconscious minds are used to dealing with them--when we dream, we dream in symbols, according to modern psychology.
(3) Symbols also pervade our spiritual lives, so most of us have grown accustomed to seeing them from an early age.
in writing can be defined as the way an author writes and it is the techniques which he/she uses. It varies from author to author and depends upon his/her sentence structure, word choice, and tone. It can also be described as the "voice" that readers hear when they read a story.
A. Style may include:
Standard Written Style
or formal writing which consists of longer sentences, a limited range of emotion, it avoids emotive punctuation like exclamation point, ellipsis, etc., no contractions or abbreviations are used to simplify words, and it is usually written in 3rd person because the author is disconnected from the story to make observations.
or informal writing takes on the characteristics of a spoken conversation and might include things like slang, figures of speech, broken syntax, etc. It also takes on a personal tone where the author speaks directly to the audience (2nd person) using pronouns like "you" or "your." Short sentences are used and even incomplete sentences or ellipsis. Words are simplified by using contractions and abbreviation.
is the language of a particular district, class, or group of persons. It is a technique of characterization that reveals the social or geographic status of a character through the use of sounds, spelling, grammar, and diction. For example, Mark Twain uses exaggerated dialect in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
to differentiate between characters:
Jim: "We's safe, Huck, we's safe! Jump up and crack yo' heels. Dat's de good ole Cairo at las'. I jis knows it."
Huck: "I'll take the canoe and go see, Jim. It mightn't be, you know."
(4) An author may use an
where the author uses unusual and elevated diction (vocabulary) and syntax (sentence structure); elaborate and sophisticated phrasing; excessive details, repetition, and figures of speech; rather than using plain, simple, and direct language. Here is an example from John Updike from
Of the Farm:
"It was a window enchanted by the rarity with which I looked from it. Its panes were strewn with drops that as if by amoebic decision would abruptly emerge and break and jerkily run downward, and the window screen, like a sampler half-stitched, or a crossword puzzle invisibly solved, was inlaid erratically with minute, translucent tesserae of rain."
B. Authors use many
devices of style
to make stories interesting:
is one of the strongest devices where the author uses words and phrases to create "mental images" for the reader. It is an author's appeal to awaken the readers' sensory perception of taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell.
The gushing brook stole its way down the lush green mountains, dotted with tiny flowers in a riot of colors and trees coming alive with gaily chirping birds.
(2) The use of
allows an author to use words in a nonliteral way, giving them a meaning beyond their ordinary one. Three common types are:
which refers to the pratice of attaching human traits and characteristics to inanimate objects, phenomena, and animals. For example:
"the raging winds," "the wise owl," or "the warm and comforting fire."
refers to the practice of drawing parallels or comparisons between two unrelated and dissimilar things, people, places, or concepts by using the words "like" or "as." For example:
"The snowbank looked like a huge pile of marshmallow syrup."
refers to an implied comparison stating the resemblance between two things. For example:
"He is the apple of my eye," "time is a theif," or "all the world's a stage."
and other plays on words add interest and humor. They are said to be the lowest form of wit, but people usually enjoy them even as they groan. For example:
"Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now," "I'm reading a book about anti-gravity, It's impossible to put down," or "I couldn't quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but eventually it came back to me."
is an exaggeration. For example: "My mom is going to kill me," "I have a ton of homework," or "Mrs. Lahners' lesson is taking forever."
is the opposite. For example: "Tis but a scratch" and "It's just a flesh wound"--after the Black Knight has both his arms cut off in
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
is an indirect reference to a person, place, thing, or idea of historical, cultural, literary, or political significance outside the current literary work. It does not describe in detail the person or thing to which it refers, It is just a passing comment and the writer expects the reader to possess enough knowledge to spot allusion and grasp its importance in a text. For example:
The title of the television show "Big Brother" alludes to George Orwell's novel,
, in which Big Brother is a symbol of a government who never stops watching its citizens.
In his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. says, "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand..." alludes to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the famous opening lines, "Four score and seven years ago..." Kings allusion calls to mind the emacipation of slavery and connects it to King's own quest for equality.
is the author's attitude toward what he or she writes. but it may be easier to understand if you think of it as the attitude that you (as the reader) get from the author's words.
The way a person feels about and idea/concept, event, or another person can be quickly determined through facial expressions, gestures, and in the tone of voice used. In literature, an author sets the tone through words. For example:
"Charlie surveyed the classroom but it was really his mother congratulating himself for snatching the higher test grade, the smug smirk on his face growing brighter and brighter as he confirmed the inferiority of his peers."
What is the tone? The tone here is arrogance. Phrases like "snatching the higher text grade" gives the illusion of effortlessness, "smug smirk" provides facial imagery, "congratulating himself" and "inferiority of his peers" indicate he sees himself as better than anyone else in his class.