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- Short Stories for English Courses - 1/74 -
SHORT STORIES FOR ENGLISH COURSES
EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
BY ROSA M. R. MIKELS
SHORTRIDGE HIGH SCHOOL, INDIANAPOLIS, IND.
PREFACE INTRODUCTION REQUIREMENTS OF THE SHORT STORY HOW THIS BOOK MAY BE USED THE FIRST CHRISTMAS-TREE Henry van Dyke A FRENCH TAR-BABY Joel Chandler Harris SONNY'S CHRISTENIN' Ruth McEnery Stuart CHRISTMAS NIGHT WITH SATAN John Fox, Jr. A NEST-EGG James Whitcomb Riley WEE WILLIE WINKLE Rudyard Kipling THE GOLD BUG Edgar Allan Poe THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF O. Henry THE FRESHMAN FULL-BACK Ralph D. Paine GALLEGHER Richard Harding Davis THE JUMPING FROG Mark Twain THE LADY OR THE TIGER? Frank R. Stockton THE OUTCASTS OF POKER FLAT Francis Bret Harte THE REVOLT OF MOTHER Mary E. Wilkins Freeman MARSE CHAN Thomas Nelson Page "POSSON JONE'" George W. Cable OUR AROMATIC UNCLE Henry Cuyler Bunner QUALITY John Galsworthy THE TRIUMPH OF NIGHT Edith Wharton A MESSENGER Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews MARKHEIM Robert Louis Stevenson.
Why must we confine the reading of our children to the older literary classics? This is the question asked by an ever- increasing number of thoughtful teachers. They have no wish to displace or to discredit the classics. On the contrary, they love and revere them. But they do wish to give their pupils something additional, something that pulses with present life, that is characteristic of to-day. The children, too, wonder that, with the great literary outpouring going on about them, they must always fill their cups from the cisterns of the past.
The short story is especially adapted to supplement our high- school reading. It is of a piece with our varied, hurried, efficient American life, wherein figure the business man's lunch, the dictagraph, the telegraph, the telephone, the automobile, and the railway "limited." It has achieved high art, yet conforms to the modern demand that our literature--since it must be read with despatch, if read at all--be compact and compelling. Moreover, the short story is with us in almost overwhelming numbers, and is probably here to stay. Indeed, our boys and girls are somewhat appalled at the quantity of material from which they must select their reading, and welcome any instruction that enables them to know the good from the bad. It is certain, therefore, that, whatever else they may throw into the educational discard when they leave the high school, they will keep and use anything they may have learned about this form of literature which has become so powerful a factor in our daily life.
This book does not attempt to select the greatest stories of the time. What tribunal would dare make such a choice? Nor does it attempt to trace the evolution of the short story or to point out natural types and differences. These topics are better suited to college classes. Its object is threefold: to supply interesting reading belonging to the student's own time, to help him to see that there is no divorce between classic and modern literature, and, by offering him material structurally good and typical of the qualities represented, to assist him in discriminating between the artistic and the inartistic. The stories have been carefully selected, because in the period of adolescence "nothing read fails to leave its mark"; [Footnote: G Stanley Hall, Adolescence, vol. II.] they have also been carefully arranged with a view to the needs of the adolescent boy and girl. Stories of the type loved by primitive man, and therefore easily approached and understood, have been placed first. Those which appealed in periods of higher development follow, roughly in the order of their increasing difficulty. It is hoped, moreover, that this arrangement will help the student to understand and appreciate the development of the story. He begins with the simple tale of adventure and the simple story of character. As he advances he sees the story develop in plot, in character analysis, and in setting, until he ends with the psychological study of Markheim, remarkable for its complexity of motives and its great spiritual problem. Both the selection and the arrangement have been made with this further purpose in view-- "to keep the heart warm, reinforcing all its good motives, preforming choices, universalizing sympathies." [Footnote: Ibid.]
It is a pleasure to acknowledge, in this connection, the suggestions and the criticism of Mr. William N. Otto, Head of the Department of English in Shortridge High School, Indianapolis; and the courtesies of the publishers who have permitted the use of their material.
REQUIREMENTS OF THE SHORT STORY
Critics have agreed that the short story must conform to certain conditions. First of all, the writer must strive to make one and only one impression. His time is too limited, his space is too confined, his risk of dividing the attention of the reader is too great, to admit of more than this one impression. He therefore selects some moment of action or some phase of character or some particular scene, and focuses attention upon that. Life not infrequently gives such brief, clear-cut impressions. At the railway station we see two young people hurry to a train as if fearful of being detained, and we get the impression of romantic adventure. We pass on the street corner two men talking, and from a chance sentence or two we form a strong impression of the character of one or both. Sometimes we travel through a scene so desolate and depressing or so lovely and uplifting that the effect is never forgotten. Such glimpses of life and scene are as vivid as the vignettes revealed by the search-light, when its arm slowly explores a mountain-side or the shore of a lake and brings objects for a brief moment into high light. To secure this single strong impression, the writer must decide which of the three essentials-- plot, character, or setting--is to have first place.
As action appeals strongly to most people, and very adequately reveals character, the short-story writer may decide to make plot pre-eminent. He accordingly chooses his incidents carefully. Any that do not really aid in developing the story must be cast aside, no matter how interesting or attractive they may be in themselves. This does not mean that an incident which is detached from the train of events may not be used. But such an incident must have proper relations provided for it. Thus the writer may wish to use incidents that belong to two separate stories, because he knows that by relating them he can produce a single effect. Shakespeare does this in Macbeth. Finding in the lives of the historic Macbeth and the historic King Duff incidents that he wished to use, he combined them. But he saw to it that they had the right relation, that they fitted into the chain of cause and effect. The reader will insist, as the writer knows, that the story be logical, that incident 1 shall be the cause of incident 2, incident 2 of incident 3, and so on to the end. The triangle used by Freytag to illustrate the plot of a play may make this clear.
AC is the line of rising action along which the story climbs, incident by incident, to the point C; C is the turning point, the crisis, or the climax; CB is the line of falling action along which the story descends incident by incident to its logical resolution. Nothing may be left to luck or chance. In life the element of chance does sometimes seem to figure, but in the story it has no place. If the ending is not the logical outcome of events, the reader feels cheated. He does not want the situation to be too obvious, for he likes the thrill of suspense. But he wants the hints and foreshadowings to be sincere, so that he may safely draw his conclusions from them. This does not condemn, however, the "surprise" ending, so admirably used by O. Henry. The reader, in this case, admits that the writer has "played fair" throughout, and that the ending which has so surprised and tickled his fancy is as logical as that he had forecast.
To aid in securing the element of suspense, the author often makes use of what Carl H. Grabo, in his The Art of the Short Story, calls the "negative" or "hostile" incident. Incidents, as he points out, are of two kinds--positive and negative. The first openly help to untangle the situation; the second seem to delay the straightening out of the threads or even to make the tangle worse. He illustrates this by the story of Cinderella. The appearance of the fairy and her use of the magic wand are positive, or openly helpful incidents, in rescuing Cinderella from her lonely and neglected state. But her forgetfulness of the hour and her loss of the glass slipper are negative or hostile incidents. Nevertheless, we see how these are really blessings in disguise, since they cause the prince to seek and woo her.
The novelist may introduce many characters, because he has time and space to care for them. Not so the short-story writer: he must employ only one main character and a few supporting characters. However, when the plot is the main thing, the characters need not be remarkable in any way. Indeed, as Brander Matthews has said,
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