Guide to Literary Analysis of a Short Story
A short story is a relatively brief invented prose narrative that typically deals with a limited group of characters involved in a single action. It usually aims at unity of effect and often concentrates on the creation of mood rather than the telling of a story.
A short story as well as a novel may belong to one of the following types, or genres: *
social which studies the effect of social conditions at a given time and place upon human life and conduct; *
psychological which is concerned mainly with the mental and emotional aspects of life of the characters; *
historical which has as its setting a period of history and usually introduces some historical personages and events; *
detective in which traditionally a detective tries to solve a crime;
science fiction which deals with advances in science and technology and their influence on human beings. Sometimes the background of the narrative is quite fantastic and has no connections with reality; *
documentary which reproduces real events as close as possible. Its main task is to involve the reader in some vital issue of the moment.
The subject, or the theme of a literary work is the basic problem or conflict, which the writer intends to present in his work. It is the general topic, of which the particular story is an illustration. The feelings aroused by the theme, the tone, the setting, the treatment of characters, the general effect of the total work make up the atmosphere of a piece of fiction.
The author's attitude to what is presented is called the tone, which can be matter-of-fact, lyrical, sentimental, melodramatic, moralizing, humorous, ironical, farcical, sarcastic, etc.
The description of the physical background — the place and time of the story, the significant items surrounding the action and the characters — constitute the setting. The global setting of the story (e.g. New York, the Riviera) can be subdivided into numerous subsettings, or local settings (e.g. in the office, at home, etc.).
Characters can be presented directly or indirectly. They are major / round / complex / many-sided / three-dimensional if
they have different personality traits and act like people in real life. On the contrary minor / flat / undeveloped / one-sided / two-dimensional axe the characters who seem quite simple and do not look full-blooded. The antithetically arranged characters are known as the protagonists (positive) and the antagonists (negative). If a personage changes in the course of the story he becomes a dynamic character; if he remains the same he is called a static character. The main heroes are often depicted with much detail by the author who tends to give emotional visual and sound portraits of his characters.
One of the fundamental features of any story is its composition which is the interrelation between different relatively independent components of a literary work: narration, description, dialogue, interior monologue, digression, etc.
Narration is dynamic, it describes the particulars of an act, occurrence, or course of events while description is static as it verbally portrays scenes, people, sensations and emotions. Dialogue is often the author's favourite compositional component as it produces the effect known as «a slice of the reality». Interior monologue gives access to the mental and emotional world of the characters. Digression is a diversion, or deviation from the logically and chronologically presented piece which is aimed at breaking the Continuum of the story and introducing the. author's contemplations, meditations Or another course of events. A digression maybe lyrical, philosophical, epigrammatic, critical, etc.
The plot of a literary work is its frame and the structure of the action comprising a series of incidents or system of events. An episode is a separate incident helping to unfold the action in a large...
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