The Short Story
Narrative genres, such as the novel or the short story, are born out of the very powerful human need to tell stories, out of our fundamental desire to give shape to experience in order to understand it and share it with the community. Through story telling early communities made sense of natural phenomena, unexpected events, and personal experience. Storytelling enabled them to pass on valuable information and to keep the memory of their ancestors alive down the generations. Storytelling satisfies our need to understand and control our origins and destiny; it enables us to meaningfully shape our individual and communal experiences (to extract meaning from experiences that can appear senseless, bewildering or even traumatic). We all tell stories, everyday, to ourselves and to others and we all relish storytelling in one form or another: we love jokes, anecdotes, tales, series, myths, novels, or histories. We cannot conceive of a world devoid of stories; without them we would lose our memory and, in turn, our sense of self.
Storytelling predates the invention of writing and was, in origin, orally transmitted. Our ancestors told stories by the tribal fire, and later by the hearth, which were verbally passed down the generations. Oral transmission meant that stories had to be committed to memory in order to survive and not be forgotten; storytellers also had to be able to effectively convey the valuable life-lessons that their stories contained taking into account the limitations that listening imposes on our capacity to retain information. Storytellers had to be able to captivate and sustain the attention of their listeners. Memory, on the part of the storyteller, and concentration, on the part of the listener, were crucial considerations in early narratives. This means that early narrative forms tended to be quite short and that the modern short story is, in origin, an older and more ancestral form than its longer counterpart, the novel. Early