During this unit, we will explore a variety of short stories; be transported to different worlds; experience events in the eyes of diverse characters; and learn new things about ourselves.
Together we will investigate the elements of short stories including setting, plot, conflict, character, point of view, and theme. We will apply these elements to the stories below. Click the images to be taken to each short story.
The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A scientist is obsessed with the removal of his wife's birthmark, believing it a sign of her human imperfection. “The Birthmark” raises some interesting questions about what it means to be human, the body vs. the soul, how much science can tell us about the world, how much of nature we can change through science, and perhaps more importantly, whether we should even try to "play God" in this way.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Birthmark." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
Imagine Tom Hanks washing up on a deserted island. Have you seen this one? Well, now imagine that, instead of a soccer ball, he encounters a Cossack psychopath/exotic serial killer named General Zaroff, who proceeds to hunt him like a smarter, crueler Elmer Fudd.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Most Dangerous Game." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
The Interlopers by Saki
This is the story of the deadly repercussions of long-standing feuds and people’s willingness to commit violence. All of this is told in a wild and untamable forest.
To Build a Fire by Jack London
A guy and his dog want to make tracks to a mining camp so they can sit beside a warm fire and chow down on bacon and biscuits. There's just one little problem: they've got at least nine hours of hiking ahead of them, and it's minus seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "To Build a Fire." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
In this very short story, a pair of lovers is at a crisis point in their relationship. As can often happen in such situations, everything comes to a head in a public place.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Hills Like White Elephants." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
O. Henry's stories are known for the sentimental warmth that shines through many of them, their playful and optimistic sense of humor, and especially for their twist endings. “The Gift of the Magi” is just that and tells the story of the search for just the perfect present.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Gift of the Magi." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
The Invalid's Story by Mark Twain
The story tells of the unfortunate misadventures of two men on a train who mistake a gunbox and a piece of rotting cheese for a smelly corpse in a coffin. The two men try many tactics in an attempt to fight the smell of the "corpse," but in the end, all of their efforts are fruitless. The themes range from mortality and the proper behavior towards the dead, to the power of imagination to overcome reason.
Thomson, Gale. “The Invalid’s Story from BookRags and Gale’s For Students Series. BookRags.com. 2006. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
This story comes out of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, but it isn't really about Mars. It's about racial prejudice, colonization, the devastation of war, the struggle between men and women, and, most of all, the triumph of the human spirit.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Martian Chronicles." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.