For the Love of Short Stories
Most of us read novels—after all, chapter books were the first sign of maturity when you were seven. What?! You can read big books already? You’re so smart! And novels are fun. You spend night after night in that one book, getting to know the characters and becoming engrossed in their problems and in the end? You are the book.
When you think of a short story, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat might come into mind. Tommie DiPaolo and Streganona. Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. You might even think that short stories are only for little kids who can’t focus long enough to read a book longer than 30 pages. But you’d be surprised.
Here’s my “short” list (geddit?) of the top 7 short stories you should most definitely read (if only for the chill factor):
- “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner: This was Faulkner’s first short story. Maybe he was trying to make a splash, but boy is it creepy. It’s about a lady named Emily, and it’s also about societal standards, societal progression and…. (spoiler alert) IT’S GOT A GOOD DOSE OF NECROPHILIA. After you finish reading, read this critical analysis to figure out all the creepy things you missed.
- “Hop-Frog” by Edgar Allan Poe: I think “Tell-Tale Heart” is one of the more popular Poe stories, but I really liked Hop-Frog. Hop-frog is a dwarf and cripple, bound into slavery by a king and his court. But you don’t have to feel bad for him, because he gets his revenge. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a lot of short stories, but my favorite collection is this one, mostly for the pictures. Which are amazing.
- “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benet: This short story isn’t creepy. It’s a nice story, especially if you’re a history buff—in fact, you could almost classify this as an extreme version of historical fiction. A man, Jabez Stone, agrees to sell his soul to the Devil, but when the Devil comes to collect, Stone chickens out. He hires a lawyer, Daniel Webster, to get him out of the contract. What follows is a trial from Hell. Literally.
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson: Yes, I can hear you shiver. I read this story in 7th grade and I still get nightmares. There’s a town, and every year they hold a lottery. (If you’ve read the Hunger Games, this should be a red flag.) I can’t say anymore or I’ll spoil it. But it’s got a lot of really good lessons about the selfish instincts of humanity.
- “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor: This is a twisted sort of story; when I finished reading it, I couldn’t figure out who was the protagonist and who was the antagonist. It’s about a family who is taking a road trip. The father’s impatient, the mother’s bland, the two kids are whining brats, and the grandmother is a stuck-up snob. So it’s a funny story…until they get hijacked by a notorious killer. SparkNotes actually has a guide to the story which is pretty cool.
- “The Lady or the Tiger” by Frank Stockton: There’s a king (isn’t there always?) who decides that, instead of a normal justice system, he's going to let nature decide. Any offender (and apparently, all the offenders in his kingdom are men) is put in an arena with two doors. The offender has to pick a door: behind one is a beautiful lady and behind the other is a ferocious man-eating tiger. If the offender picks the door with the woman, he is declared innocent, but he has to marry the woman, even if he is already married. If the offender picks the door with the tiger, he is declared guilty and the tiger gets fed. The king’s daughter falls in love with a man who the king thinks isn’t suitable. So he puts the man in the arena. The princess knows which door has the tiger and which door has the lady, but she can’t decide whether or not to let her lover live with another woman or die by tiger.
- “Between the Pool and the Gardenias” by Edwidge Danticat: This story is actually part of a collection called Krik! Krak!, which is a reference to Haitian story-telling. You get a glimpse into the gender inequality and power of superstition that backs Marie’s decision to take in Rose, but you still think the story is normal—after all, everyone has a maternal instinct and it’s almost noble of Marie to take in a helpless baby. Right? Then you find out the gruesome truth about Rose. Let me tell you, it gets really disgusting really fast. A tip? At the end, go back and re-read the whole story and groan “Why didn’t I pick that up the first time?!”
What are your favorite short stories?
Post by vitaminXD!