23 November 2012
All Elements of a Short Story Stitch Together a Theme
Short stories are fiction stories. Fiction is writing of imagined events and characters. Great short stories combine 5 key elements, which combine to create the story and to support a theme. These elements are plot, imagery, setting, point of view, and characters. For example I will use the short story by Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener.” In this short story the theme is about selfishness and that one cannot change another, because one can only change him or her self regardless of any outside efforts. The plot in this story slowly builds up and then comes crashing down. It begins with one of the characters Bartleby, arriving at a lawyer’s office, seeking employment. Bartleby is a very oddly quiet person; regardless, he starts work right away and is a great scrivener. The lawyer, who owns the office, finds Bartley’s character to be an interest to him. He says, “I resolved to assign Bartleby a corner by the folding-doors, but on my side of them so as to have this quiet man within easy call, in case any trifling thing was to be done”(10). I wonder, why does the lawyer decide to selfishly seclude him from his co-workers? The story eventually hits a conflict. He asks his copyist to do something, Bartleby responds, “I would prefer not to”(12). At one point he asks closely, “you will not?”(17) and Bartleby responds, “I prefer not”(17). The lawyer becomes curious about Bartleby’s passive resistance. The lawyer eventually comes to a point where he knows he should fire Bartleby but allows him to continue being an employee. He expresses well why in this quote: “Poor fellow! thought I, he means no mischief; it is plain he intends no insolence I can get along with him. If I turn him away he will fall in with some less indulgent employer, and then he will be rudely treated here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval. To befriend Bartleby will cost me little or nothing while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience"(15-16). Understand here that he speaks of his conscience being rewarded. Things then become complicated when Bartleby decides to stop working all together. He even was caught living at the office. Bartleby gets fired, kind of, but continues to “prefer not to” leave. The lawyer feels bad and allows Bartleby to live there even though he is fired. Bartleby eventually starts affecting business and the lawyer moves his office and abandons Bartleby. The lawyer can no longer help Bartleby because he views him as a burden now. This leaves Bartleby to be affected by the consequences. His efforts continue as he does attempt one last time to help Bartleby by offering to live in his own home. This can be taken as one last attempt of an act of kindness, an attempt to reward his conscience or both. Bartleby prefers not to leave and is eventually removed from the office and sent to jail. This resolution only brushes Bartleby’s problem to the side and never gets resolved. Bartleby dies in jail due to his protest to eat and change at all. Melville presents imagery of walls and barriers that surround or separate the characters. He writes, “At one end they (the office) looked upon the white wall of the interior of a spacious sky-light shaft, penetrating the building from top to bottom. This view might have been considered rather tame than otherwise, deficient in what landscape painters call ‘life’. But if so, the view from the other end of my chambers offered, at least, a contrast, if nothing more. In that direction my windows commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade; which wall required no spy-glass to bring out its lurking beauties, but for the benefit of all near-sighted spectators, was pushed up to within ten feet of my window panes. Owing to the great height of the surrounding buildings, and my chambers being on the second floor, the...
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