Assignment #3-Short Story Analysis
Story : Short and happy life of Francis Macomber
Description of Assignment:
Analyzing a short story is fundamentally different than analyzing a poem because the short
story allows for detail, complexity and story arcs that are often not the focus of poetry, which is
closer to distilled language, highly stylized and condensed. The short story uses prose to create
contradiction, conflict, subtlety and fully realized characters.
For this assignment, choose three or four literary devices outlined on pages 2-3 of The
Dictionary of First Concepts handout and analyze how they work in your chosen short story and
to what effect. Choose literary devices based on how important they are in the plot and character
development in your short story.
The introduction should give some key background on the story and where it fits in the canon
of the author’s works. Any historical details concerning the author or the circumstances
surrounding the story’s creation should remain in the introduction or conclusion. The thesis
should indicate which elements of the story you will analyze and what is gained through such
The body will identify where, how and to what effect your chosen literary devices work in your
short story. Use quotes (but none longer than 2-3 lines at a time), paraphrasing and outside
sources to root your essay in textual analysis. Organize the body so your analysis builds on each
previous paragraph, giving us the basics first and ending on which ever element you feel is the
culmination or unifying element of all the rest.
The conclusion should restate your thesis and examine any new understandings about the
literary devices and themes that arise from analyzing the short story. What should we take with
us about this subject? What have you uncovered in the short story that is worth remembering?
• MLA formatted with in-text citations and a works cited page.
• 3 pages (plus a works cited page), typed, double-spaced, 12pt font, Times.
• Three college-level sources in addition to your story, either from a printed source or the
college’s online databases. If you are unable to find sources this way, please come see me.
DICTIONARY OF FIRST CONCEPTS
TEN ELEMENTS AND CONCEPTS OF LITERATURE
PLOT: Series of events which make a story
POINT OF VIEW: The eyes through which a story is told
SETTING: The time and place of a story
CONFLICT: The nature of the problems faced
CHARACTERIZATION: Nature and type of characters and their developments
SYMBOL: When the concrete takes on abstract values
THEME: The central insight, or meaning, in the story
ALLLUSION: Reference in literature to other literature or history
STYLE: Writer’s choice and use of words; writer’s choice and use of elements
IRONY: A break in natural logic in a story
GENRE (Literary Form)
FICTION: Literature based on invented characters and events
NON-FICTION: Literature which is “factual”, non-imaginary
POETRY: Literature of concentrated language and managed lines
DRAMA: Literature of the theater, full of characters and dialog
NOVEL: Long, fictitious prose narrative
SHORT STORY: Complete fictional narrative of one focus and that can be read at one sitting.
BIOGRAPHY: A non-fiction account of a person’s life written by another
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: A non-fiction account of a person’s life written by the subject
ESSAY: literally “to attempt,” a short, prose composition in which a writer explores a topic of interest
EDITORIAL: A newspaper or magazine article that expresses the views and opinions of the editor or writer
FIGURES OF SPEECH
A Figure of Speech is language which is not intended to be taken literally.
A metaphor is any comparison between two unlike things. (It may be used as a larger, encompassing term for
other figures, such as similes, personifications, symbols, and oxymorons.)
A simile is a metaphorical expression which uses “like” or “as” to establish a comparison.
Personification is a form of comparison attributing human qualities to animals or abstrations.
Oxymoron is a unique form of comparison juxtaposing two words, usually with contrasting meanings, for effect.
Symbols are figures of speech in which a concrete object begins to take on abstract
SENTENCE STARTS AND STYLES
1. The short sentence style of six words or less. (Seven words sound long) Violence kills. Remember the Alamo! He couldn’t get it
2. The prepositional phrase start. (List of prepositions: aboard, above, about, across, after, against, along, among, around, at,
before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, by, concerning, down, during, except, for, from, in,
inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, out, over, past, since, through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, until, up,
upon, with, within, without) Through a thousand setbacks she kept her hopes.
3. Adjectives (singular or multiple) start. Weather-beaten, wind-blown, and remote, the lighthouse clung to the cape like a tired
child cleaves to a comforting mother. Shy and reserved, the young boy could not bring himself to look at his teacher.
4. Adverbs (singular or multiple) start. Gracefully the Heron took flight. Fearlessly, the diminutive quarterback went to the ball
and barked out his signals.
5. Infinitive start. (An infinitive is the word “to” placed before a verb.) To win the game, defend. To make a mark on the world,
do not neglect character.
6. Transitional word start. (A list of transitional words: accordingly, also, besides, consequently, finally, first, for example, for
instance, furthermore, however, in addition in conclusion, in summary, indeed, in fact, in other words, likewise,
meanwhile, moreover, nevertheless, on the contrary on the other hand, on the whole, second, similarly, therefore, third,
thus) Moreover, the protagonist broke his own rules. On the other hand, a vacation camping in the mountains doesn’t
seem too bad either.
7. Subordinating conjunction start. (List of subordinate conjunctions: after, although, as, as if , as long as, before, if, in order that,
since, so that, then, though, unless, until, when whenever, where, wherever, while) Before time slips away, let’s get the
8. Side-by-side short sentence style. The king laughs; the peasant weeps.
9. Noun with appositive start. (Appositives rename the noun, usually within a modifying phrase.) His hair, a white shock of curly
links, gave him the mad scientist look.
10. Participle start. (participles are verb forms which serve the function of adjectives.) Kicking and Screaming, the protestors
would not be consoled. Encouraged by the poll results, the candidate found new energies.
11. Gerund starts. (Gerunds are verb forms which act like nouns.) Training for the US Marine Corp is no picnic. Sketching realistic
human hands is a significant challenge.
12. Parallel style. (Putting things in balanced series.) Everybody needs something to do, something to dream, and something to
love. In everything he did he was firm, fair, friendly, and usually first.
10 ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE (FROM A TO Z)
PLOT (series of events which make-up a story)
5-POINT PLOT SEQUENCE:
Exposition: initial part of a story where readers are exposed to setting and characters.
Situation: event in the story which kicks the action forward and begs for an outcome.
Complication: difficulties faced by characters as they experience internal and external conflicts.
Climax: watershed moment when it becomes apparent that major conflicts will be resolved.
Resolution: (Denouement): tying up of the loose ends of the story.
SUB-PLOTS: PLOTS BENEATH AND AROUND THE MAJOR PLOT.
Foreshadowing: hints and clues of plot.
Flashback: portion of a plot when a character relives a past experience.
Frame story: plot which begins in the present, quickly goes to the past for story, then returns.
Episodic plot: a large plot sequence that is made up of a series of minor plot sequences.
Plausibility: likelihood that certain events within a plot can occur.
Soap Opera: multiple stories told along the sequence and spaced to sustain continual interest.
POINT OF VIEW (eyes through which a story is told)
First Person major (participant major): narrator is the major character in the story.
First Person minor (participant minor): narrator is a minor character in the story.
Third Person omniscient (non-participant omniscient): narrator is outside the story and capable of seeing into
the heart, mind and motivations of all characters.
Third Person limited (non-participant limited): narrator is outside the story and capable of seeing, at most, into
the heart, mind, and motivations of one character. Narrator is objective if not omniscient.
SETTING (time and place of a story, both physical and psychological)
Physical (external) Setting: the time and place of a story, general and specific.
Psychological (internal) Setting: mood, tone, and temper of story.
Major Tempers: Romanticism: man is free to choose against moral, spiritual backdrops. If you make good
decisions, you will be rewarded. There is a God that is in control
Existentialism: man is free to choose absent backdrops other than his own. If he feels it is
right, then it is right.
Naturalism: man is largely trapped, a cog in the impersonal machinery. He has no real way
of changing his circumstances.
Realism: eclectic view, but leaning toward the naturalistic position. Sometimes good things
happen to bad people, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. That is just the
way it is.
Other Tempers: Classicism: Man is free, but appears to be trapped due to conflicting codes.
Transcendentalism: Offshoot of romanticism, nature is a window to divine.
Nihilism: Fallout of either extreme existentialism or naturalism. Life is horrible and painful. It lacks
CONFLICT (nature of the problems faced)
Four Universal Conflicts:
Man versus himself
Man versus man
Man versus society
Man versus nature
Man versus meaning/ God/ Machine/ the Unknown
CHARACTERIZATION (nature, type, and development of characters)
Protagonist: central figure in a story, character who absorbs brunt of the burden and conflicts.
Antagonist: Character (or force) opposing the protagonist.
Stock: basic “fill-in” character used to make scenes realistic.
Flat: Character with some, but not extensive dimension and development.
Round: multi-sided, multi-dimensional, fully-developed character.
Static: character whose basic values remain consistent from story’s start to finish.
Dynamic: character whose basic values undergo change from story’s start to finish.
Coded Character: code indicates a character who is self-aware for an internal pattern for the
behavior. Coded characters must be willing to exercise discipline and personal sacrifice in service to the
Character Traits: Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social? Fear or love? Virtues? Vices?
Character Trends: Is the character moving toward love or fear; identity or disintegration; conformity or nonconformity; self-mastery or solitude; contentment or disillusionment.
Character Purpose: what is the character trying to obtain, retain, regain, or explain?
Character and Forces:
Is the character entrapped by outside forces?
Is the character entrapped by inside forces?
Is the character free with clear choices?
Is the character free with murky choices?
Method of development: events, actions, narrator’s analysis, personal dialogue, object of dialogue.
SYMBOL (when the concrete takes on abstract values)
An object remains true to itself, but begins to take on connotations of meaning derived from the work.
THEME (Central insight in the work, the meaning beneath the plot, the life comment)
Universal Themes: Love
ALLUSION (reference in literature to literature or history)
The two great sources of allusion in Western Literature are the Bible and Shakespeare.
STYLE (combination of words and elements that produce a unique personality)
Writers choice and use of words.
Nature of the language employed: language of images, language of ideas, language of metaphor.
Writer’s palette is the blending of other elements, such as symbols, characterization, allusion, setting, etc.
IRONY (break in the natural logic with a story, a logical inconsistency)
Verbal Irony: spoken inconsistencies.
Dramatic Irony: inconsistencies between perception and reality-the audience knows what the characters do
Situational Irony: circumstances work at cross-purposes to common sense
How are we encouraged to identify with the protagonist?
What is the protagonist’s defining or governing characteristic?
What external conflicts are present?
What internal conflicts are present?
What potential approaches to conflict resolution exist?
What complications, or tensions, arise?
Is the final resolution plausible? Believable? Satisfying?
Who, what is changed by the action of the story?
What impact does the “place” of setting offer?
What impact does the “time” of setting offer?
What symbols emerge?
What minor characters are vital to thematic development and why?
What does (insert minor character) represent to the protagonist?
How do the universal themes proportion themselves in the story? (love, disillusionment, self-mastery/realization, fabric of
What insights surface about such themes as beauty, justice, nature, conscience, technology, fate, or God?
Do any codes emerge through a character or characters?
Do any codes emerge through a society, or through nature?
Do any codes dissipate?
Are any codes replaced by others?
What fundamental ironies and inconsistencies are present in the story?
Are there any capturing quotations that corral important themes or ideas?
In what ways is this work a statement about design in the life of man?
In what ways is this work a statement about the accidental in the life of man?
What does this work say about establishing a sense of personal identity?
What does this work say about the balance between solitude and community?
What does this work say about contentment? Happiness? Fulfillment?
Is the shaping of the main character consistent or inconsistent with events?
What are three human values and priorities of the protagonist?
If the story has an antagonist, which of his/her values conflict with the protagonist?
Does the protagonist believe that truth can be discovered and employed, or that truth is based solely upon points of
view and opinion?
What is the defining moment in the work and what does it define?
What does this work say about human freedom?
What does this work say about human responsibility?
Does the story contain allusions to other pieces of literature or well-known historical events?
What is the single most memorable scene, and why?
The story 1) _____________________, written by 2) __________________, is set in 3) ______________________, is about
The main character 5)_________________________, is a protagonist whose outstanding characteristic of personality 6),
_____________________ is proven when 7)_____________________________. Perhaps more that any other quality, the protagonist
values 8)__________________________ in life. In the course of events, he/she has the most difficult time dealing with 10)
_________________________. Another important character is 11)______________________, who 12)___________________. Of the other
characters, 13)_______________________ may be the most important because 14)__________________________. Other characters
The main conflict in the story is triggered when 16)________________________. The action rises and complications occur
when 17)__________________________. The climax of the story occurs when 18)_______________________________. Speculating
beyond the end of the story, we might think that if the story continued 19)___________________________.
The story is told from the 20)________________ point-of-view which specifically affects the story by
Stories are often enhanced by symbolism and irony. In this story a certain object, 22)_______________________, serves as a
symbol for 23)_______________________. Another object, 24)_____________________, may also serve as a symbol for
25)_______________________. Irony surfaces in the story when 26)_______________________.
Good stories will often contain a handful of unforgettable scenes or events, but the single most memorable scene here is
27)_____________________________. The central most theme of the story emerges from the character of 28)_____________________ as
he/she struggles with 29)______________________ and suggest that in the life of man 30)__________________________________.
WRITING MODES (FOUR MODELS)
While all writing is a mixture of elements, four generalized purposes for writing, called “modes”, can be identified. Description is
painting word pictures, but these pictures should be considered multi-sensory. In description, the writer, in assorted combinations
communicates moods and movements, sights and sounds and smells, tastes and textures. Narrative often contains serious
elements of description, but goes further, including characters placed in situations of interest that require some resolution, or at
least beg for resolution. In short, when people are put in a place with problems, and are in search of solutions, drama results.
Writing to explain, sometimes called expository writing, is text that seeks to inform or teach. Argument no doubt will include
explanation, and may include description and narrative, but maintains a first purpose of persuasion. Of course, the argument
mode may also seek to inspire. While no piece of writing is completely void of endorsement, certainly there are special times
when movement, persuasion and conversion are openly sought.
1. NON-FUNCTIONING SENTENCES are those without one or more of the criteria which make sentences function: subject, verb,
2. The DEPENDENT CLAUSE is a group of related words containing a subject and its verb which is incapable of standing alone as
a complete-thought sentence. (When the scholar first read the Constitution.)
3. A SIMPLE SENTENCE is comprised of a single independent clause. (The students read the document.)
4. A COMPOUND SENTENCE is composed of two or more independent clauses. (The students read the document and each
prepared a report.)
5. A COMPLEX SENTENCE is comprised of a single independent clause with one or more attached dependent clauses. (When
the scholar first read the constitution, he was surprised by the terseness of the document.)
6. A COMPOUND-COMPLEX SENTENCE is comprised of two or more independent clauses, with at least one of them having an
attached dependent clause. (When the scholar first read the Constitution, he was surprised by the terseness of the document,
and later he wrote an essay reflecting upon his observations.
1. Used to set off explanatory elements in a sentence. (Einstein, the great physicist, was present during the discussion.)
2. Used to set off parenthetical words. (The physicist, however, didn’t speak.)
3. Used to set off introductory material. (Seeing him stand, the audience rose to its feet.)
4. Used between an independent and dependent clause. (After the judge read the argument, his decision was made quickly.)
5. Used to separate items in a list of three or more items. (He had the job of separating arguments, evidence, and circumstantial
6. Used between two identical words. (Whatever it was, was ...
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