Short Story

    "Indian Education" - Sherman Alexie

    Indian Education

    How does Alexie’s structure –vignettes organized by grade level--contribute to its themes?

    How has the narrator’s school experiences shaped him?

    Why does Junior refer to playing basketball as "beautiful?"  Notice the use of parallelism.  Why is the use of parallel structure important in this and other passages?

    What does Junior mean by, "There is more than one way to starve?"

    Why does the headline mentioned in "Eleventh Grade" hurt Junior so much?

    What does the Postscript suggest about life on the reservation?

    Describe Alexie’s tone in the story.  What is his attitude about the narrative?


    "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" - Katherine Anne Porter

    The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

    Granny says she prayed for sixty years to forget George. Why, then, did she keep his letters?

    Why is Granny concerned about the letters in the attic?

    Granny indicates in her deathbed reflections that she loved John. Did she really, or was she simply trying to persuade herself that she did?

    What was Granny’s relationship with her children? What kind of mother has she been?

    How does Granny relate to God? Does that attitude/relationship change in the story? How?

    Discuss the symbols of the bridegroom and the jilting. How are they significant?

    What does Granny regret at the end of her life? What are her final thoughts?

    How is Granny’s name, Ellen Weatherall, significant?

    Discuss the significance of the last line in the story: “She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light.”

    How does Katherine Porter portray a person’s dying in this story? How realistic does that portrayal seem to you? Cite examples (passages) from the story to support your conclusion.


    "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

    How is it decided that the angel is an angel?

    Consider the “magical” elements in the story (the angel, the crabs, the spider woman, etc.)  Why does Garcia Marquez include these?

    Why do the villagers stop visiting the angel and turn their attentions to the spider woman?  What is Garcia Marquez suggesting by their fickleness?

    Consider the villagers initial reaction to the angle and their later response to him.  What does Garcia Marquez suggest with their treatment of the angel?

    Analyze the significance of the line, “His only supernatural virtue seemed to be patience."

    Why is the story subtitled, "A Tale for Children"?

    What does this story suggest about the Catholic church?



    "The Things They Carried" - Tim O'Brien

    The Things They Carried

    Analyze the organization of the story.  How does form contribute to meaning?

    Analyze the character of Ted Lavender and the way in which he dies.  What does O’Brien seem to be suggesting though this character?  Why are there so many references to Ted Lavender getting shot?

    Consider some of the items the men choose to carry.  How does O'Brien use these items to develop this characters?  Do these items become symbolic?

    Consider the section in which O’Brien writes about the “great American war chest.”  Note the incongruity between the soldiers’ reality and the images in this section.  What do you think O’Brien is saying in this passage?

    O'Brien uses repetition heavily and consistently in the story. Locate areas of repetition. Why does he use such repetition in his diction and syntax choices?



    "Barn Burning" - William Faulkner

    Barn Burning
    Analyze the character of Colonel Sartoris Snopes.  What is his central conflict?

    Why does Abner Snopes burn barns?

    Consider the bovine imagery surrounding Sarty’s sisters.  What is Faulkner suggesting with this language?

    What role does the law play in this story?  Do you think the legal system portrayed in "Barn Burning" is just?

    Analyze Falkner's diction, syntax, and sentence constructions.  How does his voice contribute to the story's themes?



    "Spunk" - Zora Neale Hurston

    Compare and contrast the characters of Joe and Spunk.   What do their similarities suggest?  Their differences?

    How does the setting contribute the the story’s themes?

    How are the characters of Elijah and Walter important to the story?

    How does the story’s point of view contribute to readers’ perceptions of the themes (for example, truth and veracity, guilt and blame)?

    Analyze how information if transferred from person-to-person.  What is significant about the role of storytelling?  What is Hurston suggesting about storytelling?

    What do you make of the story's final two lines?

    Describe Hurston’s style in this story.  Locate two passages that especially illustrate her style and explain how the style aids in developing the themes.



    "The Lottery" - Shirley Jackson

    The Lottery

    Why does Jackson choose a small town as the setting for “The Lottery”? How is it described in the opening paragraph of the story? Why is it unnamed?

    What could be the significance of the summer season for the story?

    What do the stones symbolize? The three legged-stool? The black box?

    What do Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves and Mr. Martin represent in the story?

    What does Old Man Warner represent in the story?

    What does the lottery mean to the townspeople in the story? Do they all have the same reaction? Do they question their obedience? Why? Why not? Provide examples.

    What could be the significance of the 3rd person narration in “ The Lottery”? What could be the impact of this on the readers?

    What does the story reveal about the place of men and women in this small town? Give specific examples from the story.

    What is the significance of the title?

    What does the story reveal about human nature?

    What makes the ending of the story so shocking?

    Identify examples of irony in the story and discuss them.



    “The Rocking-Horse Winner” – D.H. Lawrence


    Describe the irony in the title.

    Describe the irony in the term “luck.”  Comment on the irony of Paul’s last words, “I am lucky."

    What is Paul’s mission?  Is it accomplished?

    Paul’s mother carries with her a horrible secret.  Identify this secret.  Does the text/narration support or challenge her secret?

    How do you interpret Oscar Cresswell’s closing lines?

    How is the story similar to a fairy tale or a parable?

    Consider Lawrence’s statement from The Bright Book of Life:  “To be alive, to be man alive, to be whole man alive: that is the point. . . So much of a man walks about dead and a carcass in the street and house; so much of women is merely dead.  Like a pianoforte with half the notes mute.”  Apply Lawrence’s statement to one of the characters in “The Rocking-Horse Winner."

    Lawrence, the first major English novelist to come from a working-class background, had a wide range of friendships with men and women of all classes.  What classes are represented in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”?  Does Lawrence’s sympathy for characters seem affected by their class origins?



    "The Chrysanthemums" - John Steinbeck

    The Chrysanthemums

    Read the first two paragraphs carefully. In what way does the setting of the story foreshadow what follows?

    Describe Elisa as a character. What kind of person is she?

    We see Elisa talk to Henry at the beginning and again at the end of the story. What kind of relationship does she have with Henry? What is his view of her?

    Why is Henry so confused when she protests at being called "strong"?

    Why does Steinbeck spend so much time describing Elisa's clothes? How does her clothing change as the story progresses?

    In what ways is the tinker a contrast to Elisa? What might he represent for her? Is he sincere, or is he just a con man? Are there any ways in which they are alike?

    What is the purpose of including the dogs in the story?

    What do the chrysanthemums symbolize in this story? Would you say that they are a universal symbol or a contextual symbol? What do they mean to Elisa?

    What are "planting hands"? Does the tinker understand her explanation of them?

    After the tinker leaves, what does Elisa do, and why? Why do her actions and speeches confuse Henry?

    Why does Elisa want to see a fight at the end of the story? Why does she begin to cry?



    “A Worn Path” – Eudora Welty

    A Worn Path
    Consider the implications of Phoenix Jackson’s name. What does Phoenix suggest? Jackson?

    Why does the hunter point his gun at Phoenix? What do you think the hunter meant when he told Phoenix, “But you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you”?

    Consider the following observation made by Phoenix when she arrives at her destination:  “and there she saw nailed up on the wall the document that had been stamped with the gold seal and framed in the gold frame, which matched the dream that was hung up in her head." Why is this passage significant?

    What is the symbolic significance of her path?

    Consider the significance of the marble cake.  What does it symbolize?

    What is the story's theme?

    Why does Welty leave this question of whether or not Phoenix Jackson's grandson is dead or alive ambiguous?



    “Babylon Revisited” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Babylon Revisited

    What is significant about the title?

    What are the conflicts in "Babylon Revisited"? Locate various types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional).

    Consider the theme of a reversal of fortunes, specifically the boom and bust of the stock market in the early 20th century and Charlie's gain and then loss of Honoria.  What is Fitzgerald suggesting with this theme?

    Describe the significance of Honoria's name.

    Is Charlie Wales consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character?

    Does Charlie change and/or develop as a human being? How? Why?

    What is the role of history (or the past) in the story? How does it develop the story’s themes?

    How essential is the setting to the story’s themes?

    Describe Marian.  What details does Fitzgerald provide to help us understand her hatred for Charlie and her motivations for keeping Honoria away from her father?  How does this characterization of Marian help develop the story's themes?



    “Araby” – James Joyce


    What does the narrator hope to achieve by going to the bazaar?

    Why doesn't he buy anything for Mangan's sister?

    What had the narrator expected to find at Araby? What was the basis of his expectation?

    Compare and contrast North Richmond Street and Araby. What do we learn about the story’s themes through the setting?

    Find patterns in the story that show relevance to "light," "vision," and "beauty."  Why does Joyce use such description?

    What is the role of the narrator's uncle in the story? What values and attitudes does he represent? Are they preferable to those of the narrator?

    All of Joyce’s fiction is set in Dublin, his hometown; although after the age of twenty, he lived and worked abroad until his death at age fifty-nine in 1941.  Joyce’s intention with Dubliners (Araby is the last story in the childhood section within Dubliners) was “to write a chapter of the moral history of my country … under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life.”  He considered Dublin “ the centre of paralysis” and hoped that when the Irish took “one good look at themselves in my nicely polished glass” he would have introduced “ the first step in the spiritual liberation of my country. ”  Focus on the minor characters (especially the aunt, the uncle, and Mrs. Mercer) and discuss them as “looking-glass” figures (i.e. what do they illustrate about the Irish that Joyce wanted his countrymen to see)?



    “Everything that Rises Must Converge”  -  Flannery O’Connor

    Everything that Rises Must Converge

    What images in the story suggest the mother‟s (partial) innocence?

    What “values” of the Old South does the mother believe in? What evidence does she give that she and Julian are part of that tradition?

    Describe the Julian and his mother’s relationship. How are they similar and how are they different?  Who seems to be the better person?

    Explain the symbolism of the hat(s).

    Describe the parallels between the African-American woman and Julian’s mother.  What does O’Connor suggest with such parallels?

    Explain the significance of the following passages:

    • “It‟s ridiculous. It‟s simply not realistic. They should rise, yes, but on their own side of the fence.”
    • “. . . but he‟s selling typewriters until he gets started.”
    • “The tide of darkness seemed him back to her, postponing from moment to moment his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow.”




    “A Good Man is Hard to Find” - Flannery O’Connor

    A Good Man Is Hard to Find

    Which character in the story is in most need of redemption?

    Locate the passage in the story that you believe is the moment of grace, or the moment of redemption for the character you identified in the previous question.

    Much of O’Connor’s writing is specifically rooted in Catholicism, a faith to which she was deeply devoted.  O’Connor said, “I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy.  This means that for me the meaning of life in centered in our Redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in its relation to that” (Di Yanni 170). How much do you think the story's meaning depends upon the religious perspective of the author? How much do you think it depends on the religious perspective of the reader?  (If you are familiar with the Catholic faith, you might want to locate references to specific Catholic teachings and symbols, most notably colors.)

    Consider the story from a non-religious perspective.  Do you think the story would work if one removed the religious implications?  How much of the story do you think depends upon a religious framework? (Interestingly, when once queried by "a student as to ‘just what enlightenment’ a reader might to expect to glean from her stories, O’Connor suggested the reader ought to ‘forget about the enlightenment’ and just enjoy the story” (Di Yanni 170).

    Characterize the grandmother. Is she a manipulative genius? A superficial and selfish woman? A rather average grandmother, with her share of human faults?

    Characterize the Misfit.  Is he a personification of evil?  He is simply a flawed human?

    Consider the role of the story’s minor characters—the parents and the children.  What type of parents are Bailey and his wife, who is notably unnamed?  Describe the couple’s relationship. Describe their children, John Wesley and June Star.  Why do you think O’Connor describes the family in this way?  What commentary does she seem to be suggesting?

    Explain the significance of the following passages:

    • “She would have been a good woman . . .  if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
    • “Why you’re one of my babies.  You’re one of my own children!”

    “Good Country People” - Flannery O’Connor

    A Good Man Is Hard to Find

    Describe Joy-Hulga.  Use as many adjectives as you can.  Then describe Mrs. Freedman, Mrs. Hopewell, and Manly Pointer.  Would you like to have any of these people to dinner?  Why does O’Connor create such characters?

    How would each of the story’s characters describe themselves?  What is O’Connor suggesting through this discrepancy?

    Were you suspicious of Manly Pointer?  Locate foreshadowing that hints to Pointer’s true character.

    Analyze the theme of power in the story.  Who has power over whom?

    What characters, besides Joy-Hulga, seem most in need of enlightenment?  Specifically, what seems to be each character’s central flaw?

    The story opens with a discussion of Mrs. Freeman.  Why? In what ways does Mrs. Freeman see more clearly than either Joy-Hulga or Mrs. Hopewell?  Does Mrs. Freeman misrepresent herself?

    Locate ironies in the story.  Try to find verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony.

    Identify and explain at least three of the story’s symbols.

    Are there any “good country people” in the story?  Why does O’Connor title her story this way?


    “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” - Joyce Carol Oates

    Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

    Describe the similarities between Arnold Friend and Bob Dylan, to whom the story is dedicated. Why do you think Oates dedicated the story to Bob Dylan?

    Locate and explain symbols in the story.

    Analyze Oates’s choice of names for her characters.  How do they relate to the story’s themes?

    Locate references to religion.  What is Oates saying about religion?

    Locate references to music and movies.  What is Oates saying about popular culture?

    Describe Connie's relationship with her mother, sister, and father.  What is "missing" in the family?

    Locate the many references to fairy tales (Arnold's coach alludes to "Cinderella,"  his big teeth to "Little Red Riding Hood," for example).  What is the significance of fairy tales?

    Is Connie a typical girl, or is there something about her that could make her more susceptible to Arnold Friend?

    Explain the story's title.


    “A Rose for Emily” –William Faulkner

    A Rose for Emily

    Although “A Rose from Emily” is narrated in the first person, the narrator is not “I” but “we.”How does Faulkner’s choice of the plural first person narration affect the story?

    How does does the POV connect to the story’s themes?

    Why is Miss Emily described as  “a fallen monument”?

    Identify the many references to the “new generation” and aging.  What does Faulkner suggest with the juxtaposition between old and new?

    Consider the following description of the old Confederate soldiers at Emily’s funeral:  they were “ confusing time with mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road, but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years.”  What does this passage suggest about time? About truth?

    What does Miss Emily's ticking watch symbolize?

    Find the paragraphs in which the narrator mentions Miss Emily’s father and Miss Emily. What is the relationship between the daughter and the father?

    How does the story's plot (the sequence of events) contribute to the story's meaning?

    Consider the title of the story.  What does the rose symbolize?

    Analyze the various power structures in the story.  Who (or what) do you think has power?


    "The Lady with the Little Dog" - Anton Chekhov


    The narrative stays mostly with Gurov. How does Chekhov characterize him?

    What does Gurov especially dislike?  Locate contractions or hypocrisy in his apparent dislikes.

    Describe Anna.  How are Anna and Gurov similar?

    Consider the four sections of the plot. Describe Gurov in each of these sections.  How does he change?

    Analyze the setting.  What is significant about the shifts in setting?

    How are the people in Moscow described?  What do such descriptions tell readers about Gurov and Anna?

    What is significant about Anna's and Gurov's ages?  Why does Chekhov give readers these details?

    Why does Chekhov give us a description of Gurov's education and career?

    Anna changes Gurov.  How does she change him?  What is it about her personality, beliefs, or values that seems to spark this change?

    What does the story suggest about relationships?

    Are Anna and Gurov likable characters? Does the answer to this question change as the story progresses?

    How much information are we given about these characters, and how much are we expected to infer, particularly about their pasts?  Locate two passages in which meaning is dependent on inference.


    “Shiloh” – Bobbie Ann Mason


    Writers will use setting to define and shape character, to reflect emotional states, to build plot and atmosphere, or symbolize concepts.  Eudora Welty said that "every story would be another story, and unrecognizable as art, if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else.”  How would this story change if the setting had been different?

    Analyze the character of Leroy.  What does Leroy’s immobility suggest?  His work with craft kits?  His former occupation as a truck driver?  What do these details tell us about him?

    Explain the significance of Norma Jean’s body building.  Of her job working behind a cosmetics counter? Of her going to school?

    Who is the protagonist of the story?  That is, who changes?  What prompts this change?

    Identify references to stereotypical gender roles and to narration in which these stereotypes are ignored by Leroy and Norma Jean.  What might Mason be suggesting about gender?

    Mason said that contemporary fiction needs to focus on the lives of ordinary people.  Are the characters in “ Shiloh” ordinary?  Is their marriage ordinary?

    Analyze the character of Mabel.  How is she important to the plot? How would the story change if she were absent from the plot?

    Explain the symbolism of the off-white dust ruffle.

    Explain the symbolism of Leroy's desire to build Norma Jean a log house.

    Consider the title of the story.  What is its significance? What is significant about the references to the Confederacy?


    "The Yellow Wallpaper" - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    The Yellow Wallpaper
    How does Gilman tie the narrator to the wallpaper? Why does she make this connection?

    Carefully analyze the adjectives used to describe the wallpaper.  What do these descriptions suggest?

    What does the pattern in the wallpaper symbolize?

    How does the changing description of the wallpaper reflect the narrator’s changing character?

    Why does Gilman choose the color yellow for the wallpaper?  Why not blue, green, or some other color?

    How does Gilman use diction and tone to reflect the narrator’s decline into madness?

    The narrator says of John, “because he is so wise and because he loves me so.”  Do you feel John is wise and loving?

    What does the story suggest about the role of women in during this time period (the Victorian era)?


    “Astronomer’s Wife” – Kay Boyle

    Kay Boyle
    How is the plumber a foil to the astronomer?  Create a list that highlights their contrasting characteristics.

    Locate the references to up and down.  What do you think Boyle is suggesting with these references?

    Look at the verbs used in sentences that describe Mrs. Ames and those that describe the astronomer.  How is the verb choice different?How do Boyle's verb choices connect to the story's themes?

    Identify passages that reference gender roles and gender assumptions.  What do you think Boyle is saying about gender?

    What is Mrs. Ames epiphany?

    Click here to access the story.


    “Hills Like White Elephants” - Earnest Hemingway

    Hills Like White Elephants

    What are the American and the girl discussing?

    What is the significance of his nickname for the girl?

    What is your impression of the girl?  How is she characterized?

    Explain the significance of the title.

    Explain the significance of the setting.

    Locate at least two important symbols and explain their significance.

    Click here to access the story.


    “Guests of the Nation” – Frank O’Connor

    Guests of a Nation

    Why is the story divided into four sections?  Identify on which aspect of plot O’Connor focuses in each section.

    In what country is the story set?  How does the setting contribute to O'Connor's purpose in writing this story?

    Why does Donovan not get close to the prisoners? What does this tell you about him?

    Compare Belcher to Donovan. How are they similar?

    What are some examples of irony found in the story?

    Describe the change in Belcher in part four.Why does he laugh?

    What is the strongest theme in this story:religion, family, friendship, self-preservation, or nation?

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