A Good Short Story Essay, Research Paper
What Elements Makes Up A Short Story?
What is a short story? What are the criteria necessary for a short story? What makes a good short story? After lengthy debates between many groups we??ve decided that it can not be decided by consensus, but by what we feel a short story must contain; different people may have different perspectives of this. This essay is devoted to portraying my group??s conclusion to what a short story is. With reference to our critical criteria: plot, suspense, object and timeline; I will discuss whether the stories: Mr. Know All, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and By the Rivers of Babylon meets them.
The plot is a series of events combined together to form a short story. The events are limited due to the length of a short story. A short story is also viewed as the ??storyline?? of the story. Each event occurs according to its order in the storyline.
The three stories that I chose to analyze all contain the element of plot.
In the story Mr. Know All, Max Kelada, a voyager on the ship traveling from San Francisco annoys all the passengers by entering their conversations uninvitingly. He frequently takes over the discussion due to his vast knowledge. Max was credited to knowing almost everything about anything. No one on the ship could beat him in a debate. One day, he had a bet with another passenger by the name of Ramsay. It was about the authenticity of the pearls that Ramsay??s wife was wearing. Kelada, after careful inspection, knew that the pearls were real. But, after he saw the expression on Mrs. Ramsay??s face, he sacrificed his reputation and concluded that the pearls were imitation to save the Ramsays?? relationship.
Plot was also evident in the story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The title itself describes what this story is all about. It was concerning a man by the name of Walter Mitty who frequently experienced daydreams. As fast as his daydreams occur, they disperse just as quickly with assistance from the outside environment (wife, parking attendant, etc.) He first dreams about being the commander of a hydroplane who has to get his crew out of danger from the hurricane. Soon after, he is a doctor who walks into a hospital only to be called upon to help with emergency surgery. A technical glitch occurs in the operating equipment and he repairs it with a regular pen. While walking down the street he jumps into another daydream about being on trial for the murder of Gregory Fitzhurst. He announces that he killed the man with his left hand and brings the courtroom into chaos. Later on in the hotel Mitty dreams about his courageousness, he volunteers to fly a bomber by himself during the Second World War. His last daydream ends with him standing infront of a firing squad.
By the Waters of Babylon also contains a plot. It is a story that takes place in the post apocalyptic era. The people now live in tribes and have reverted to a superstitious religion. The elders constantly talk about the land of the Gods and how people are not allowed to journey there. The son of a priest gets curious about this land of the Gods. His soul would not rest unless he made this journey. Understanding that in doing so would mean death, he continues only to satisfy his curiousity. During his travel, he comes across a strange material called metal and finally the city of New York, not the forbidden realm of the Gods.
The element of suspense we also concluded was critical in a short story. Suspense is the substance in the story that brings up questions to its readers. It makes the readers imagine what may occur later in the story. It assists the readers in experience what the characters in the story experiences.
In the short story Mr. Know-All, suspense was apparent when Max Kelada had a conflict with Ramsay. They were arguing about the authenticity of the pearls Mrs. Ramsay was wearing. This brought up some questions to the readers, is it real? When Kelada discovered that the pearls were genuine, the reader would have expected (suspense) that he would reveal the truth. But the looked on Mrs. Ramsay??s face completely changed his mind and he opted to lie about their realness (also suspense, why did he lie?).
In the story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, suspense is also present. The audiences, while reading this story, are made to question the mental condition of Walter Mitty. The readers also contemplate whether Mitty will get his errands done (buy shoes, dog biscuits, etc.) before his wife gets out of the salon. Another constituent of suspense is also existent at the end of the story when Mitty stands in front of the firing squad. Does he die?
We can notice suspense in the story By the Waters of Babylon, when they were talking about the forbidden domain of the Gods. It makes us think, Where is it? What is it? Suspense was also existent when the boy was having a conflict with himself. Was he really going to commit to traveling to this prohibited place?
Object is another characteristic of a short story that our group deemed critical. An object can be any thing that is present in a story. A rock, a character etc, it gives the story substance as well as something to focus upon.
In all three of the stories, there are many ??objects?? present in the story. To summarize:
Mr. Know-All: Max Kelada, ship, Ramsay, Mrs. Ramsay, narrator etc.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Walter Mitty, Mrs. Mitty, parking attendant, car, judge, hydroplane, bomber, etc.
By the Waters of Babylon: Boy, priest, metal etc.
A timeline was the last device we found necessary as a critical criteria for a short story. The timeline is defined as a series of events, some of which are included in the story. A beginning point and an ending point are selected from this timeline and the events that occur between these two points make up the story.
In the story Mr. Know-All, the beginning point occurs when the war had finally ended and Max Kelada(Mr. Know-All) and the narrator boarded the ship and met in the lounge. The ending point was when Kelada received an envelope from Mrs. Ramsay with a hundred-dollar bill. This shows us that Kelada knew that the pearl necklace was real and ends the story with Kelada really knowing everything.
In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the story begins with Walter Mitty daydreaming about being a commander in a hydroplane, he is guiding the plane away from a hurricane. The ending point takes place with Mitty daydreaming. It ends with him finishing his cigarette while standing in front of a firing squad.
The story By the Waters of Babylon begins with a warning about the restrictions of entering the Dead place unless it was for metal. It also stated the laws that forbid the journeying to the land of the Gods. The story ends with the young boy making a vow to return to ??New York?? with a band of men in search of the images of men like ??Ashing, and Lincoln??.
In conclusion, the stories, Mr. Know-All, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and By the Waters of Babylon fit our critical criteria completely. They all had elements of plot, suspense, object, and timeline in them which made them short stories to us. Other may disagree with our selection of critical criteria, but this is what we perceive constructs a short story.
Critical Criteria for a Good Story
?h At least one character
?h Attempted resolution of conflict
Stories: (Man and His World)
?h Mr. Know-All pg. 432
?h The Secret Life of Walter Mitty pg. 87
?h By the Waters of Babylon pg. 237