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How to Analyze a Short Story

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Marissa Twaddle

on 22 October 2012

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Transcript of How to Analyze a Short Story

Step One: What Happens?

In "The Winner" by Barbara Kimenye, the main character, Pius wins money in hockey pools and people come claiming they are his distant family members wanting him to invest in their business. However, Pius has his own plans for the money; he wants to put a new roof on his house, or possibly build a new house altogether. Later on, Pius gets some unfortunate news that he had not won as much as he had thought. He did win money in the pools, but so did 300 other people. Everyone is surprised to see that Pius is not upset. Step Four: Topics or Issues Determine which topics and/or issues are raised within the text. The Winner by Barbara Kimenye Steps to Analyze a Short Story Step Two: Setting Identify the place and time. Use phrases from the text that define place and powerful imagery related to place and time. Step Three: Atmosphere & Mood Find specific words or phrases from the text that establish the atmosphere or mood of the story. Determine from these words or phrases what the mood or atmosphere the author intended. Step Five: Tone In order to identify tone, list specific diction used in the text that conveys a strong attitude towards the subject. Step Six: Imagery & Figurative Language In the text, look for possible symbols, similes, metaphors, parallels. Also look for powerful images, recurring images, and variations of the same image. Step Seven: Structure or Framework Describe the introduction, rising action, climax, and denoument. If flashbacks are used, analyze the use of them. Are there different speakers or view-points? If so, describe the use of those as well. Step Eight: Look for Relationships Look for relationships between the characters of the story, as well as relationships between the characters and the setting or atmosphere. Determine also the different relationships between a character and symbols, characters and conflicts. Who is associated with what and how does it affect the characters? Step Nine: Make Connections Make connections between the characters and society, between
Ask yourself: What could these settings represent? Why do they contrast? Why are they alike? What aspects of society could this character represent? Are there any surprising contrasts, characters? Why are they surprising and what might they mean? "Serious young men from Radio Uganda who were anxious to record Pius's delight at his astonishing luck for the edification of the Uganda listening public." (96/97) "All to be seen from the door of the house was a turbulent sea of white kanzus and brilliant busutis, and the house itself was full of people and tobacco smell." (100) Names such as Salango, Nantondo, Pius Ndawula, Yosefu, Kivumbi, and Miriamu are not names we usually hear and suggests that the story takes place in Africa. "An extension of his small coffee shamba, a new roof on his house-or maybe an entirely new house-concrete blocks this time, with a veranda perhaps." (99) "Matoke and tea were served, the matoke on wide fresh plantain leaves, since Pius owned only three plates, and the tea in anything handy-tin cans, old jars, etc.-because he was short of cups too." (101) Briefly summarize what happens in the story. Matoke, green bananas usually served with a meat sauce, is a Ugandan food staple and tells the reader where the story is set. Pius wants to extend his shamba, which is a garden, the use of this word also suggests that the story is taking place in Africa. The fact that Pius wishes to build a house out of concrete blocks suggests that his house is not sufficient like many houses in Uganda that are made of mud, iron, and thatched roofs. At the beginning of the story, Pius wins football pools, and everyone comes to visit him. They tell him they want to make sure "his money was properly invested-preferably in their own particular business!" (97) After Pius wins the football pools a woman introduced as Cousin Sarah shows up and practically takes over his house. She "behaved in every aspect as though she were the mistress of the house." (102) Even though at first Pius was "very wary of Cousin Sarah" but as the story goes on Cousin Sarah grows on him. She helps out around the house, and "when one woman plonked a sticky fat baby on his lap, Cousin Sarah dragged the child away as though it were infectious." (101) Even after it is revealed that Pius has not won as much as initially thought, Cousin Sarah still sticks by him after all the reporters leave, and they end up getting married. Typical houses in Uganda A "Kanzu" traditional robe worn by some East African men. A "Shamba" garden with vegetables and fruits. The traditional busutis worn by women. Step Ten: Identify Theme Possibilities "Mo money Mo Problems" - The Notorious B.I.G. In the story "The Winner" by Barbara Kimenye, the main character Pius is bombarded with reporters and distant relatives after they hear that he has won money in the football polls. The music video "Mo' Money Mo' Problems" also portrays this. At a golf tournament, the press keeps questioning the winner of the tournament. The reporter also says, "I guess this means mo' money mo' problems." which is also true for Pius in "The Winner"; when Pius winds the polls, he encounters problems such as everyone around him wanting to befriend him, and wanting him to invest his money in their businesses. Both the story and the video show that when you have money, everyone wants to be close to you in hopes of getting some of the money, or getting the perks of a friend who has money, such as going on trips, and you can never know who is truly your friend unless you lose the money, like Pius did. RISING ACTION First, look at the observations you have made then describe any patterns you have found. After determining relationships meanings, and patterns, identify what you believe the author is trying to imply about society, society's problems and triumphs, or the triumph of the human spirit, or the human condition. Barbara Kimenye, the author of "The Winner", is implying that humans as a whole are obsessed with material wealth. When Pius wins the pools, everyone who hears about his wealth come to visit him, most hoping that he will share his winnings, which is proven by the fact that most of them took off after hearing the news that he didn't win as much as they had initially thought. Pius seems to be easily influenced by his friend Salango; when the reporters come to interview Pius about his winnings Salango tell hims to "Say nothing!" (100). Pius listens to his friend and refuses to speak to the interviewers. In the story, Pius has difficulty adjusting to the attention he is getting, "It isn't at all easy, when you have lived for sixty-five years in complete obscurity, to adjust yourself in a matter of house to the role of a celebrity, and the strain was beginning to tell." (98) He is quickly growing tired of all the people who are regularly at his house, "He was tired of the chatter and the comings and goings in his house of all these strangers." (101) There are many cases of people losing their winnings in the lottery like Pius lost his money from the football pools. Although these people lost their money by being careless and Pius lost his money because of a mistake that was made. A study finds that about one third of people who win the lottery go bankrupt in a matter of five years. http://www.forbes.com/sites/financialfinesse/2012/04/05/three-ways-not-winning-the-lottery-may-make-you-wealthy/ The issue raised in "The Winner" by Barbara Kimenye is that humans focus too much on money, thinking that it will bring happiness. In the story Kimenye shows that even the people with no money can still be happy, that money doesn't necessarily make you happier. Pius doesn't have much money before he wins the football pools; he only has three plates, and his house is made of mud, "Pius's unpretentious mud hut." (97) but he is still happy. When he learns he wins the money he is still happy, but his personality doesn't change because of it, he is not obsessed with it. However, Kimenye shows with all the people who come to visit Pius, how he majority of the population is overcome with the idea that money is indeed the key to happiness. Pius was happy even before the money, and he wasn't upset when he lost it because he had never known what it was like to have much money in the first place, whereas people who are born into money have it all their lives and don't know anything other than that, so when they lose it, they are devastated. In the story "The Winner" the author shows that money isn't everything, because even after Pius learns he hasn't won much money at all, he is still happy. Perhaps happier, because now he has Cousin Sarah and they are getting married, and he knows that she wasn't just with him because he had money. "Hosts of relatives converged upon him from the four corners of the kingdom." (97) This quote from the story conveys the image that Pius is of royalty. The newspaper reporters are described as "lurking around Pius's unpretentious mud hut." (97) which shows them in a negative light, and that Pius is unhappy about them being there. Barbara Kimenye writes her story "The Winner" in a formal tone. She doesn't use slang in the piece and doesn't use contractions often. Words such as "bombardment" (97), and phrases like, "Their persistent clamouring for his attention." (98), and "The way they kept shoving their children under his nose, made it impossible for him to think, let alone talk." (98) suggests that, especially for someone who has led a quiet life until now, it must have been very overwhelming to have so many people converge on him all at once, all seeking his attention. At the beginning Pius seems to be content to go about his life as usual, but all the reporters and people who come to his house, make that impossible. All Pius would like to do with his winnings is make a few improvements to his house, and to his life, but is otherwise happy with lot in life. In Barbara Kimenye's story, Pius's mood towards the money he has won is indifference; he doesn't really care about the money he won in the football pools, he just thinks that it would be nice to be able to use it to build a new roof for his house. This establishes the mood throughout the story. "'The prize money is to be shared among three hundred other people.' Pius was stunned. Eventually he murmured, 'Tell me, how much does that mean I shall get?' 'Three hundred into seventeen thousand pounds won't give you much over a thousand shillings.' To Muisis's astonishment, Pius sat back and chuckled. 'More than a thousand shillings!' he said. 'Why, that's a lot of money'... 'What would I have done with all those thousands of pounds? I am getting past the age when I need a lot.'" INTRODUCTION People come to see Pius after hearing about his good fortune, reporters come to interview him for newspapers, and radio shows. He hardly has any time to himself. Cousin Sarah is introduced, and she takes over the house, making tea for everyone, and she behaving "as though she were the mistress of the house." (102) Later, Pius spends "an enjoyable evening with the Musakas." (103) after Sarah encourages him to get out of the house and visit his friends. CLIMAX Pius learns that there was a mistake and he had not won as much as he had thought initially, and much to Musisi's surprise, Pius was not upset by the news. Pius simply states he would not have known what to do with all the money anyways, and that a thousand shillings is "a lot of money!" (104) DENOUMENT The reporters leave as well as every else who came to see Pius after hearing he had won the football pools, but Cousin Sarah stays by his side. Pius finds his shamba a wreck when he returns to his house. Both Pius and Cousin Sarah discuss what should be done with the money. Sarah states that "the roof should have priority." (105) and Pius says that he "promised Salongo something for the tomb." (105) Pius goes to see Salongo and tells him that he is getting married to Sarah, and Salongo tells him that Sarah is "the real winner!" (107) "Of course he is exhausted! Who wouldn't be with all these scavengers collected to pick his bones?" (102) This passage from the story relates the news reporters and all the other people who visit Pius to scavengers who have come to get any scraps that they can, or "pick his bones".
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