Only One Can Triumph
Short stories are a way to escape everyday life without taking all day or week to read the story. They are mainly based on fictional characters and can vary in length. As defined by Dictionary of Literary Terms, a short story is “a relatively short narrative which is designed to produce a single dominant effect and which contains the element of drama. A short story concentrates on a single character in a single situation at a single moment” (343). Like novels, short stories are made up of different plot points such as an exposition, raising action, climax, denouement, and resolution; although, not all short stories accommodate all of these plot points. When a plot point is left out of the story, it tends to leave the reader with unanswered questions about the short story; when this occurs, usually the reader critiques the writing based on the unanswered questions which arose. I have chosen two short stories to compare based on conflict, imagery, and final resolution: “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story” by Russell Banks and “Revenge” by Ellen Gilchrist.
According to The Holt Handbook, a conflict is “The opposition between two or more characters, between a character and a natural force, or between contrasting tendencies or motives or ideas within one character” (Kirszner and Mandell 749). Conflicts make a short story interesting. Without conflict in the exposition of a short story, I would have nothing to fuel the tension and excitement a story creates in my mind, which keeps me reading. A conflict isn’t always an argument, fistfight, or shootout, it can be an internal conflict. In “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story” the conflict is man versus himself. Right away Russell Banks writes “I don’t mind describing it now, because I’m a decade older and don’t look the same now as I did then, and Sarah Cole is dead” (76). This shows me the narrator, a man, has struggled telling this story, and only the passing time, along with Sarah Cole’s death is allowing him to get over the inner conflict he has with himself. Further into the story, I can really see how this conflict could affect the short story. Banks’ narrator states his conflict “confuses me, embarrasses me and makes me sad, and consequently I’m likely to tell it falsely” (81). The narrator’s inner conflict is so great, he would jeopardize what truly happened in the story. The struggle shown right away in the exposition, kept my attention and kept me reading to find out if he overcame his embarrassment and sadness.
In “Revenge,” the conflict doesn’t start until several paragraphs into the short story, but Ellen Gilchrist keeps the suspense throughout, after it’s introduced. Gilchrist’ narrator, a ten-year-old girl named Rhoda, watches as her brother Dudley and cousins build a broad jump pit for pole-vaulting and training for the Olympics; although, she wants so badly to help them build the broad jump pit and train along with them, they refuse to even let her in the pasture where it is being built (419). So early on I’m hooked to the story and want to continue reading. As the suspense builds, to really intensify the conflict Gilchrist writes, “Rhoda, you’re not having anything to do with this broad jump pit. And if you set foot inside this pasture or come around here and touch anything we will break your legs and drown you in the bayou with a crowbar around your neck” (420). The narrator is now faced with a physical conflict as well as a verbal one between her brother and cousins. This suspense early on in the short story, definitely grabs ahold of a readers attention. I want to find out if Rhoda ever ends up drowned in the bayou, or pole-vaulting in the broad jump pit.
I was always fond of moving picture books. In my mind, it is how every book should be. Full of color and contrast, figuratively speaking of course, it should create the perfect mental picture for a reader so they can truly see how the writer wanted the story to be depicted. Using...
Cited: Banks, Russell. “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story.” Fictions. Ed. Trimmer, Joseph F and Claude Jennings. 2nd ed. Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. 76-91. Print.
Gilchrist, Ellen. “Revenge.” Fictions. Ed. Trimmer, Joseph F and Claude Jennings. 2nd ed. Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. 418-28. Print.
Kirszner, Laurie G and Mandell R. Stephen. “Conflict.” The Holt Handbook. 6th ed. Texas: Harcourt College Publishers, 2002. 749. Print.
Kirszner, Laurie G and Mandell R. Stephen. “Resolution.” The Holt Handbook. 6th ed. Texas: Harcourt College Publishers, 2002. 763. Print.
Shaw, Harry. “Imagery.” Dictionary of Literary Terms. 1972 ed. 195. Print.
Shaw, Harry. “Shorty Story.” Dictionary of Literary Terms. 1972 ed. 343. Print.
April 10, 2014
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