As English Short Stories Summary

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UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS

AS LITERATURE IN ENGLISH: SYLLABUS 9695

NOTES FOR TEACHERS ON STORIES SET FOR STUDY FROM

STORIES OF OURSELVES: THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT STORIES IN ENGLISH

FOR EXAMINATION IN JUNE AND NOVEMBER 2010, 2011 AND 2012

CONTENTS

Introduction: How to use these notes
1.The Fall of the House of UsherEdgar Allen Poe
2.The Open BoatStephen Crane
3.The Door in the WallHG Wells
4.The People BeforeMaurice Shadbolt
5.A Horse and Two GoatsRK Narayan
6.JourneyPatricia Grace
7.To Da-Duh, In MemoriamPaule Marshall
8.Of White Hairs and CricketRohinton Mistry
9.SandpiperAhdaf Soueif
10.TyresAdam Thorpe

These notes are intended to give some background information on each author and/or story as an aid to further research and to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

They are intended only as a starting point and are no substitute for the teacher’s and student’s own study and exploration of the texts.
Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)
The Fall of the House of Usher

This is one of the most famous gothic stories from one of the masters of the genre and contains many of the traditional elements of the genre, including horror, death, medievalism, an ancient building and signs of great psychological disturbance. The mood of oppressive melancholy is established at the opening of the story and here readers may note an acknowledgement of the appeal of gothic fiction: while there is fear and horror, the shudder is ‘thrilling’ and the ‘sentiment’ is ‘half-pleasurable’.

At the centre of the story are mysteries, about the psychological state of Usher himself and about his sister’s illness and death. The story only offers hints and suggestions; there is an ‘oppressive secret’, while the sister, buried in a strangely secure vault, returns as if risen from the dead to claim her brother. In archetypal gothic fashion, a raging storm of extreme violence mirrors the destruction of the family and its ancestral home.

Horror stories and horror films continue to have wide popular appeal and it is worth considering why this is so, and in what ways this story fulfils the appeal of the horror story. Why are Usher’s and his sister’s maladies never identified? What does Madeline’s escape from the vault suggest?

Wider reading
Other gothic tales by Poe include The Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Compare with
The Door in the Wall by HG Wells
The Hollow of the Three Hills by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Online
Biographical material and a searchable list of works can be found at: http://www.online-literature.com/poe/

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
The Open Boat

This story is based on Crane’s own experience, when as a war correspondent, the boat he was travelling on to Cuba sank. He and others spent a number of days drifting in a small boat before reaching land. The story explores the fortitude of men in a shared plight and their companionship in the face of danger. The narrative style is factual and plain, perhaps mirroring the honest practicality of the men in the boat whose story is being narrated. It engenders an admiration of the skilled seamanship and calm demonstrated by the seamen. The drama in the story comes from the waves; the seamen converse, swap roles and encourage each other under the guidance of the captain. When they eventually reach shore, death comes to one of them, who is ‘randomly’ chosen. Without obviously aiming for pathos, Crane achieves it with the oiler’s death. The story, like the seamen, betrays ‘no hurried words, no pallor, no plain agitation’, but achieves a real sense of loss at its conclusion.

Wider reading
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

Compare with
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
How it Happened by Arthur...
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