Defining the American Short Story Genre
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Critics of the modern American short story face a crisis of classification analyzing the merits of an art form that eludes comfortable definition. Before evaluating the quality of any particular short story, the reader, as the critic no matter how amateur, tends to ask himself what should be expected. Is it a novel sent to the publisher too early? Is it a short statement with background as an afterthought? The key is that, they find themselves naturally asking the point of literature and the modern short story genre is relatively undefined. As the last of major literary forms to have evolved, the short story is naturally compared first to a longer form of fiction story. Short is the only qualifier. In fictional prose, this shortness is usually measured in number of pages. They usually range from five hundred words to fifteen thousand words. When the short story is relative in a spectrum with novels and shorter novellas, the missing pieces are highlighted. The core elements of longer forms of fiction clearly constructed steps from the exposition to the resolution are skipped, ignored, undeveloped. Outside of its place in the spectrum of a novel standard, however, is where the short story concept develops into a true genre. Here, independently, no pieces are missing, but constructed to reach the reader in a way (May 160). Short story is one of the oldest literally genres in America. Longer narratives including myths and epics have short stories episodes in them. Short story genre came into being as a separate genre during the late eighteenth century. There are many writers who have successfully created interesting short stories. Many authors are remembered for the influence they have had in this genre. Modern writers emulate what they developed in short stories.
A short story lacks typical plot elements as transcendental instead of incomplete, that the elements are not needed, and would detract and distract from the unique purpose of the genre format. It seems particularly applicable to short stories, based on a single idea or image instead of a novel incorporating several and drawing connections between the collections of ideas. There is no fixed length for short stories. Readers expect an event, a character or the themes to be described in a short way. Most of the events in short stories appear as anecdotes in a normal novel. There is always a recounted anecdote in short stories, concerning the contest for the most concise short story. Virginia Woolf is one of the experts who have written a short novel with one page length. Ernest Hemingway has done it perfectly using a single line and claimi8ng it to be a short story. Some writers have written quite longer stories in the name of short stories. Provided the narrative has one main character reining all the events in the narrative, it can be referred to as a short story. Additionally, long narratives which stick to a single episode or issue remain short stories. This does not mean they will be three thousand pages and then be termed as short stories. The actual length should be considerable. In case the themes have deeper degrees, short stories are mostly referred to as novellas (Woolf 124).
Earnest Hemingway is remembered for his understatement and terseness in short stories. Many authors have imitated his tough style especially nowaday when people do not like reading long novels. He had persistent themes, which were physical and moral including stoicism and courage. Such themes require toughness and directness fit the author has to deliver the message effectively. His stories had no superfluous decoration. They had closely observed details therefore, fitting in modern styles. He broke the laws of logic when he wrote a short story with six words and was contented (Hemingway 44).
Nathaniel Hawthorne introduces short stories which are wonderfully crafted in moral ambiguity, symbolism and different metaphors originating from American psyche. He has beautiful narratives with characters oppressed by retribution, guilt, and sinning consciousness. Centrally, Guy Maupassant produced short stories in a different style. He presented his work in a simple way which symbolizes daily life. He started the style of downgrading plot and suspense to favor his character’s revelation. This style shocked most readers who read his work. However, other new writers emulated him, and his style started to rule in America. His tone was totally objective. He used a detached tone which was deeply ironic in most cases (Hawthorne 273). This author is remembered for his accuracy and exactness in observation. He was able to precise and balances his style. At the beginning, most readers devalued his short stories claiming that they were mere summaries and anecdotes. However, this perspective was changed after a critical analysis of his work. Readers came to a conclusion that, the author was careful in giving impression and truthful insights concerning hidden lives of various people captured in the midst of daily life trials.
Katherine Mansfield has surpassed many writers as she was able to work within the entire short story format. She produced her work in a single well-document work with numerous short stories. She paired down dramatic element in a short story to minimum incidence. However, the consciousness of this dramatic element did not hinder her from raising its level to a psychological and subtlety insight to high heights. She has selected a unique way which allows her to detail every minute detail using symbolism. This way, the reader has a clear concept of her idea irrespective of the entire shortness of the story. Katherine was one of the early feminists who were able to convince the audience to side with her radical points of view. Many writers considered her to be a contemporary and a true friend in literature. She loved Virginia Woof’s work and they worked together in developing new short stories techniques (Mansfield 99).
James Joyce was a great American writer who valued short stories. His work has been used to develop modern short stories in literature. He has influenced many writers as they love his main ideas which are organized in two or three pages. He analyzed his characters in sheer and down pared style. In fact, most of his scenes and characters are petty and mean. He loved using tragedy to emphasize his main idea. It was hard for Joyce to get a publisher since they all feared loss. This made her work remain unpublished for many years even after her efforts to look for a publisher. However, his work was produced unexpected results. Many writers were pleased and bought his books endlessly. Those who criticized his workk claim that, he used actual names of places in people in his area. They termed this as unethical in literature. Joyce is best remembered for perfect use of epiphany in short stories. He was able to reveal a real focal point in short stories (Joyce 113).
Originally, most American writers were presenting the most interesting part of the story in the last paragraph. This was the most common strategy which made writers interested. Suddenly, writers dropped this style claiming that it was cheap. Instead, they start incorporating interesting parts in the main body. This eliminated the original style. Nowadays, it is very rare for a writer to put that interesting point in the last paragraph. Writers are using the modern method which restates the thesis of the story in the last paragraph. They include the interesting point early in the story to give the reader a clear sense of direction. This unfolds the story from the beginning and wins the reader’s attention.
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Virginia Woolf wrote short stories in different styles. Most frequently, she used blended poetic meditations, prose poem and no plot events in her stories. Her famous story, ‘Sunday or Monday’ has different styles combined to bring out her main ideas. She created new linguistics styles in her work without considering the plot or plot of the lines. These styles give light to time meditations, death and memory in a poetic aura. She arranged her literature pieces chronologically offering insights to her writing development. Joyce James developed an important device in short stories referred to as epiphany. He appears to be following Guy Maupassant who had started writing earlier on. Joyce stories were focused on revelation. They were all pared down as far as literary styles were concerned. He used sudden moments, symbols and remarks to clarify the meaning in any complex experience. He offered an interesting end either for the reader or the character in the story. Woolf used similar styles which she referred to as moments of being. She played down events and actions in favor of dramatizing impending minds and characters (Maupassant 56).
Charles May developed short stories as literary genres. This is well developed from their origin to what we have today in storytelling. This author combines what had been done by other excellent short story writers in America. He develops his work giving useful chronology, significant publication note3s as well as full references. He went a step ahead to suggest annotated readings for those readers who would like to read further. Unlike other American short story writers, May analyzed an overview of his stories and developed an impending method on how short stories are analyzed. This is an excellent part which has helped many undergraduate learners (May 160).
In conclusion, a short story refers to fiction work depicting one main character or event, which has a single thematic focus. Short stories are short with one to four pages in length. There is a great conflict in determining the best style of presenting short stories. Different authors in America have generated short stories in different styles. Readers have different tastes as well as intellectuals’ response. This makes every writer have his or her followers and critiques.
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