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Welcome to the support site for "Analyzing Short Stories!" Here you'll examples of essays written by students enrolled in college composition classes. They have kindly allowed us to include them to illustrate the various techniques we've outlined in this book. While certainly not perfect, they do represent the wide variety of writing styles and the range of skills and critical abilities students bring to the subject. As such, they stand as reasonable models of what a good student can be expected to achieve. Under no circumstances shold these papers be used to fulfill requirements for current English classes.

An Analysis of Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" by Karen Gray

      Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" is the story of Mathilde Loisel, who resents her "station" in life. When Monsieur Loisel presents his wife with an invitation to a formal ball, she bursts into tears because she has nothing to wear. Mathilde's husband agrees to let her buy a gown, and, following his suggestion, she borrows a beautiful necklace from a friend. Consequently, she has a wonderful time at the ball. Upon returning home, she realizes that she has lost the necklace. The Loisels replace it with a similar one, for which they enter into debt for ten years. One day, Mathilde sees her old friend and decides to tell her the truth, only to discover that the original necklace had been a cheap imitation. The central idea of the story is that, in the pursuit of material wealth and superficial things, people may inadvertently make their situations change for the worse.

Mathilde Loisel is shown to be a vain and ungrateful person who believes that she was born to have a better life. She feels that she has married beneath her, in spite of the fact that her husband is a hard working and dependable man. Sadly, Mathilde is unable to recognize and appreciate the good things in her life. "She had no fine clothes, no jewels, nothing; these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them." In her vain attempt to appear wealthy, Mathilde actually dooms herself and her husband to years of poverty. In spite of her shortcomings, Madame Loisel is a woman of integrity; she replaces the necklace instead of disappointing her friend. Mathilde Loisel is the ideal type of character to convey the author's warning that vanity and greed to can lead to a life of hardship and misery.

The central conflict in this story is between Mathilde's desire for a life of luxury and the reality of her humble lifestyle. "She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury." She has even given up the friendship of an old schoolmate who happens to be wealthy. Monsieur Loisel expects his wife to be thrilled about being invited to such a formal affair, but she agrees to go only after he promises to buy her a dress. The conflict comes to a head when, after a glorious evening of dancing and socializing, Mathilde realizes with horror that she has lost the borrowed necklace. Mathilde's internal conflict, between fantasy and reality, leads her into a life of abject poverty.

The author uses the omniscient point of view to offer insight which helps the reader to better understand the reasons for Mathilde Loisel's actions. The dramatic point of view would have merely shown readers a moody and vain woman, without giving any clues as to why she is so unhappy with her life. Similarly, the first person narrator would have been inappropriate. It is unlikely that Mathilde could explain that she was born for luxury and fine things without appearing insufferably arrogant. Guy de Maupassant effectively uses the omniscient point of view to show the complex personality of the central character.

The story is set in the Rue des Martyrs in Paris, France. The setting is closely tied to Mathilde's fate; she is a "martyr" to false values and pride. Although this time period is unclear, one's social standing is obviously very important. The Loisel's home is a modest one; the chairs are worn and the curtains are ugly, in stark contrast with the luxurious home Mathilde dreams of. It is ironic that Mathilde must give up the apartment she hates to move into a much smaller and less comfortable place. Additionally, as a result of the expense of replacing the necklace, Mathilde must let her maid go and do her own household chores. Her former life no longer seems so oppressive.

The author uses irony to convey the central idea. The very same item that wins for Mathilde "a victory so dear to her feminine heart" actually brings her to a lower station in life. Her vanity is the cause of her downfall and the necklace is a symbol of her vanity and her skewed sense of priorities. The author also makes use of metaphor in the story. "She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains." Repetition is used throughout the story; the reader learns that Mathilde is always sad, or "utterly miserable." It follows that Mathilde, in her vain attempt to glorify herself, has created a sort of prison for herself and her husband.

The author defines the tone of the story through the central character. As Mathilde creates a less favorable situation for herself, the reader may feel pity for her. The story's tone suggests that the author may have a less than favorable opinion of women. "Her tastes were simple because she had never been able to afford otherwise, but she was as unhappy as though she had married beneath her; for women have neither caste nor class--their beauty grace and charm serving them for birth or family." The false pursuit of beauty, grace and charm causes Mathilde to age beyond her years and to endure more hardship than she has ever known.


"An Analysis of the Elements in Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" by Brandi Grissom

      Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour" is the story of Louise Mallard, a weak, repressed housewife who is liberated in learning of her husband's death in a train accident. Realizing that her husband's death will allow her to live life for herself and on her own terms, Louise finds joy in knowledge of herself and desires she had never before known. Louise's self-exaltation comes to an abrupt end when, at the end of the story, Mr. Mallard enters the house, killing the free self she had only just discovered. Chopin reveals in her story that only through assertion of the true self can one find life worth living, and that death of the true self can bring death of the physical self.

A repressed housewife who becomes a self-assured "goddess of Victory," Louise Mallard is an extraordinarily dynamic character. At the outset of the story, Louise is viewed as feeble by her friends and family. They fear the news of her husband's death will overcome Louise's weak heart and kill her. Upon learning of husband's death, Louise is consumed in a storm of grief. As the storm passes, Louise is possessed by an epiphany, altering forever her sense of self. She realizes she is no longer sheltered by repression from her true self. Passionately, Louise embraces the procession of years she is now free to live on her own terms. An awareness of self encompasses Louise. No longer must she repress her own will to placate that of her husband. No longer must she feign love for a husband of convenience. Drinking in the elixir of life and its newfound freedom, Louise discovers joy in her heart. For the first time, she is excited about life, and all of the days ahead that would truly be hers alone. In asserting her true self, Louise experiences an inner strength that infuses her with a zeal for life.

The conflict in Chopin's story is an internal one. Louise must choose between repression and self-assertion. Knowing that with the return of her husband, the freedom she has just discovered will be revoked, Louise's heart is broken, and she dies. After feeling the "monstrous joy" that accompanies the realization of the value of life experienced without repression, the sadness of returning to that state is more than Louise can bear. The inevitable death of the true self she has just discovered causes Louise's physical death. Although it is not the joy of her husband's return that kills her, as the doctor suggests, it is joy that kills Louise. She has felt the joy of self-assertion and its freedom, and the loss of that joy leads to her death.

Louise's dramatic inner transformation is revealed to the reader in Chopin's effective use of the omniscient point-of-view. Knowledge of Louise's inner thoughts and emotions is critical to the reader's understanding of Chopin's theme. While Louise's sister makes relentless importunities that Louise not be overcome by sadness, the reader is able to understand that the opposite is occurring inside of Louise. Louise is having the time of her life, unlike anything she had experienced before. In hearing Louise's thoughts and experiencing the rapture of freedom along with her, the reader understand the devastation Louise feels in knowing the brief triumph over repression would vanish as quickly as it had possessed her. Only through knowledge of Louise's thoughts and emotions is the irony of the doctor's attribution of her death to joy that kills apparent.

The setting in the story is symbolic of the new life Louise is experiencing. Louise looks out her bedroom window to see trees "all aquiver with the new spring life": a foreshadowing of the new life she will soon find in freedom from the repression she has always known. The environment outside Louise's window mirrors her own feelings. Just as Louise's "storm of grief" is passing, her cheeks still wet with tears, the air outside is delicious from the breath of rain. Just as Louise notices, for what seems to be the first time, the richness of life outside her window, she will also realize for the first time, the richness of life within herself. Chopin reveals that Louise drinks in the elixir of life from that open window. It is the window to Louise's soul.

Chopin's use of language effectively conveys the intensity of the emotions that overcome Louise. Repetition of the word "free" reveals the exaltation Louise experiences in being released from possession by her husband's will. The diction aptly portrays the significance, emotionally and physically, of Louise's transformation. Tumultuously, Louise's bosom, the seat of passion, rose and fell as the "monstrous joy" possessed her. As the elixir of life "courses" through her once weak heart, Louise's "pulses beat fast." When Louise's fancy runs "riot along those days ahead of her", the reader feels the excitement Louise feels. Through the image of Louise as a winged "goddess of Victory", her inner strength from triumph over repression becomes palpable. That strength is reaffirmed in Chopin's use of words that connote potency. Louise has a "clear and exalted perception" of herself. The years to come belong to Louise "absolutely". The "powerful will" now belongs to Louise, instead of the husband who controlled her. Self-assertion finally becomes the "strongest impulse of her being".

The tone of Chopin's story is ironic. With her husband dead, Louise was truly alive. The death of the inner-self Louise discovered in her brief moments of self-assertion was affected by her husband's life. Within an hour, Louise experienced the exaltation of absolute freedom the the total devastation from loss of it. The ultimate irony occurs as the doctor pronounces Louise's death from heart disease, joy that kills. Only the reader knows that Louise's heart was diseased by repression. Joy killed Louise only in the sense that it was taken from her as quickly as she had discovered it.


An Analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" by Carlos Salinas

      Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown is a story of a young newlywed, Goodman Brown, and a particular night he spends in the forest. Goodman Brown travels into the forest one night on an "errand" and is soon joined by an un-named companion who bears such a resemblance to Brown that, "they might have been taken for father and son." As Goodman Brown goes deeper into the forest, he finds that his companion is indeed the devil. On several occasions Goodman Brown stops and tells the devil he will not go on, but the devil persuades and tempts him to keep going. While in the forest, Goodman Brown is convinced that his wife, Faith, is ready to offer her soul over to the dark side. It is not until Goodman Brown looks to save his wife by crying out to Heaven that his nightmare is finally ended, and he wakes up alone in the forest. Hawthorne suggests that faith is tempted everyday, and the devil will stop at nothing to try to turn anyone he can to the dark side.

The central character, Goodman Brown, is a simple young man from a good family of devout Christians. The similarity in appearance between Goodman Brown and the devil is significant because of the subtle way in which the devil tempts young Brown. The familiarity gives Goodman Brown an unkowning kinship with the devil, thus weakening his faith. The devil yet again tries to familiarize himself with Goodman Brown when he tells of his friendship with Brown's father and grandfather. In a line that sounds as though it came from The Rolling Stone's song (Sympathy for the devil) the devil says, "I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Phillip's war." The devil continues to tempt young Brown, even though his faith appears to be strong. Young Goodman Brown shows he is a prideful man when he defends his family name by saying, "We are people of prayer and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness." Throughout the story Goodman Brown shows his wanting to be good and how the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The central conflict in "Young Goodman Brown" is an external one. Goodman Brown is torn between his faith as a Christian, and the apparent temptations that the devil has placed before him. Young Goodman Brown appears to be a good, Christian, God fearing young man, but his faith is put to the test when he enters the forest that night. The devil again tempts young Brown when he appears to have a conversation with Goody Cloyse, the woman who taught Brown catechism in his youth. It is at this point when Goodman Brown's faith is beginning to be shaken a little. Again his faith is weakened when he notices the minister and the deacon riding on the path to gather at the witch-meeting. These are people who had major influences on Goodman Brown's life and whom he respected deeply, and to see them as witches and wizards deeply confuses young Brown.

Hawthorne uses a limited omniscient point of view in this story. In this mode the reader can sense the feelings and thoughts of Goodman Brown. It is essential that the reader be given insight into the mind of Goodman Brown, because without it they most likely would be lost. The thoughts and emotions that go through the mind of young Brown show the struggle he goes through and how his faith is slowly chipped away and finally broken. A complete omniscient point of view in this story would give too much information and be unnecessary. You need not know the devil's thoughts to know what he is up to; he wants the soul of young Goodman Brown. The young man's feelings are well documented when he, "approached the congregation, with whom he felt a loathful brotherhood, by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart."

The setting of this story is colonial Salem, a village just northeast of Boston. The village has historical value in that it is where the "Salem Witch Trials" took place, thus reflecting the major theme in the story. Hawthorne uses the setting of the story to his advantage, and the historical background behind the town of Salem makes the story more believable. The dark mood of Salem reflects the whole theme of witchcraft and so do the characters, all except one. The pink ribbons of Faith make her stand out as a pure, tender creature in the wicked town. Even her name, Faith, is in direct contrast with the setting of the story.

The use of language in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is extraordinary. The story is full of symbolism, as well as irony and foreshadowing. It is ironic that Goodman Brown's wife's name is Faith. The irony is shown when young Brown is about to lose his faith, it is Faith who helps restore it. And it is Faith who gives a hint of things to come when she says, "A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she's afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!" She is pleading with her husband to stay home (especially this night) because she has a bad feeling about what is to come. The symbolism throughout the story has to deal with good and evil. When Goodman Brown is in the forest and he looks up to the sky and he starts to feel his resolve coming back to him, but no sooner do clouds roll over the sky covering up the Heavens. The woods also have a symbolic meaning as a place of mystery and solitude. Imagery is also displayed throughout the story, for instance when Hawthorne describes the meeting in the forest: "At one extremity of an open space, hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock, bearing some rude, natural resemblance either to an altar or a pulpit, and surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting. The mass of foliage, that had overgrown the summit of the rock, was all on fire, blazing high into the night, and fitfully illuminating the whole field," The use of imagery paints a picture of almost a bonfire like atmosphere where Goodman Brown is ready to give up his soul.

The tone in this story is a fearful one. Goodman Brown is afraid of what will happen in the forest, he is afraid throughout the whole story. He is afraid he will be seen in the woods, so he hides. He is afraid of what will happen to Faith so he rushes through the forest to find her. But above all, Goodman Brown is afraid of losing his faith, and though he wakes up from his dream, he knows he lost his faith and he is unable to recover from it, and he ends up leading a very sad life because of it. Perhaps it's just a pun, but I find it very significant that had Goodman Brown never left his Faith, he would never have lost his faith.


An Analysis of Character in Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" by Rachel Back

      "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant is the story of a woman of modest upbringing who dreams of being wealthy. In the story, Mathlide's pride and vanity cause her downfall. This collapse forces her to become everything she despises in order to understand the narrowness of her idea that she needs money to be happy. In understanding the symbolism of the necklace and the metamorphosis of the character's personality, Mathlide plays an essential role. Therefore, the central character is the critical element of the story. The roundness of Mathlide's personality and the dynamic change she undergoes make it possible for the reader to understand these two substantial elements.

The symbolism of the necklace would not be as profound without the awareness of Mathlide's personality. She is bewitched by the diamonds' sparkle and beauty, but does not realize that it is a mere imitation. Her ignorance regarding the quality of the jewelry proves two important things. The first is that Mathlide is the not the refined, elegant person she believes herself to be. She cannot tell a genuine diamond from a fake, which proves that despite having the necessary apparel to appear regal and wealthy, she does not have the knowledge or the discriminating taste of the truly elite. The second and more important matter that the phony necklace reveals is Mathlide's "fake" persona. She is insincere, unkind, and delights herself by believing that she is better than everyone. She endures the life of a middle-class housewife unhappily and fails to realize how fortunate she is. The omniscient narrator reveals that she feels that she married beneath her. The fact is that she married a caring man who gave up his indulgences so that she could buy a dress for the ball.

Mathlide's need to feel superior contributes to her rude and petulant attitude. An example of this is when she throws the invitation to the grand ball across the room in anger because she does not have anything proper to wear. She is angry because the invitation is a reminder of the fact that she is not an actual member of the upper echelon. Also, when Mathlide has a lovely dress, she again becomes irritated because she does not have any jewelry to wear. She says, "...there's nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the company of rich women." She chooses to blame others for her lack of self-esteem and contentment with who she is. She is constantly reminded of her lack of social standing, and reacts with anger to cover her shame.

The glittering diamond necklace is a symbol of Mathlide's dreams. She spends so much time thinking about the things that she wants that she does not take the time to appreciate what is right before her. The author devotes two paragraphs to Mathlide's daydreams of her imaginary home, which is richly decorated, filled with servants, exquisite pieces of furniture, gleaming silver, and gourmet meals. Mathlide is a dreamer, but she's lazy. She will never achieve the status that the necklace represents because she does not feel that she should work for it. The author states, "She was one of those pretty and charming women born, as though fate had blundered, into a family of junior clerks." Mathlide believes that she was meant to be a wealthy woman, but was cheated. When Mathlide sees the diamond necklace for the first time, the reader almost feels that Mathlide is familiar with it. Mathlide immediately wants the necklace because she identifies herself with the beauty and distinction of it. At this point in the story, Mathlide considers herself worthy of the necklace, not knowing that it is a cheap imitation, just as she is.

The sharpness of the central character is significant in appreciating the metamorphosis of Mathlide's personality. After losing the necklace, the change in Mathlide's life is dramatic. She becomes the kind of woman she always believed that she loathed. She does heavy housework, haggles over prices with the grocer, and dresses like a poor woman. After ten years of this toil, the debts are paid; however, Mathlide does not return to being the snobby, fretful woman she once was. She is old and hardened, but the change is more than physical. The author subtly reveals to the reader that Mathlide has a confidence that beauty or money cannot provide. She is proud of her life, of what she has accomplished, and who she is. This strength of character is so great that Mathlide is not intimidated as she approaches a still young and beautiful Madame Forestier. No longer consumed with what people will think of her clothes or status, she has the ability to regard herself equal to others, without needing to be superior. She has discovered what has eluded her for so long, that confidence and respect do not come with money. She has learned about the two types of pride, false and merited. False pride caused her downfall and merited pride brought her up out of the ashes to a place where she could assuredly hold her head high.

These elements of "The Necklace" are revealed through Maupassant's skillful development of the central character. The symbolism of the diamond necklace would be lost without the roundness of Mathlide's disposition, and the evolution of her personality would go unnoticed without the dynamic nature of her change.


A Comparative Analysis of D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner" by Gail Davis

      "The Rocking Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence captivates the reader with its tragic story of a young boy trying to alleviate the family financial woes that have been tormenting his selfish, self-centered mother. The child eventually succumbs to death under the weight of providing sustenance to the unsustainable, a burden far too great for his young psyche. By carefully analyzing "The Rocking Horse Winner" using the criteria of plausibility, the cohesiveness of the elements, and the ability of the story to produce fresh insights with additional readings, one can declare the story exceptionally well-written.

For this story to be readily accepted by the reader, Mr. Lawrence had to allow us insight into a dysfunctional turn-of-the-century family. The characters' timeless trait of self-absorption and the belief that money will solve all of their problems give the story the needed plausibility. At the clap of hands, children are expected to appear, to perform some arbitrary function and then disappear as quickly into whatever world they can manage to create for themselves within the confines of their environment. The adults then, as now, seldom take the time to inspect that world for the dangerous signs of a loss of balance, or a child going over the edge into fantasy. In the story one can sense the young boy's desperation to appease his mother's gargantuan appetite for money. He desperately hopes that having her hunger satiated, she will perhaps find room in her heart and time in her life for her children. Alas, the gifts of both time and money seldom come hand in hand; when one has plenty of the one thing, there is seldom enough left of the other. When her maternal instinct appears to be awakening and she begins to feel at least some concern for her son, it is too late. He has sacrificed his life for her obsession with money.

Mr. Lawrence has written a story with all elements tightly woven and interdependent. The preoccupied and disengaged mother remains true to character throughout the story. She never takes a moment, until it is too late, to really pay attention to her pitifully distressed young son. The child's conceptions of the reasons for the deterioration of the family are within the simplistic reasoning of a young child. He desperately wants to "fix" things and naturally targets what would appear to a child as the most obvious solution--to acquire more money. The setting puts the family in the unenviable position of living outside their means. They are living in an upper-class neighborhood where they feel they belong, but are at a loss as to what to do to maintain their status. The conflict in the story between the material and superficial money-lust of the mother and the inability of anyone to find gainful employment to meet her demands is set with an ominous tone. The author's use of omniscient narration provides rich, probing details of the state of affairs affecting each family member.

"The Rocking Horse Winner" is a complex and deeply disturbing story that the reader is able to enjoy more with each additional reading. With more careful study, one finds nuances and subtleties that give added insight. One comes to understand the child's descent into madness and eventual collapse as the culminating inescapable trap from which no one seems capable of saving him. Initially, the mother appears to be the cause of his victimization, but one comes to understand that all of the adults are incapable, being too wrapped up in their own greedy excesses to save the boy from death. The uncle, who at first appears to have the young boy's best interest at heart, eventually ignores Paul's growing desperation as cruelly as does the mother. Even Basset, the young gardener, seemingly protective of Paul's best interest at first, becomes just one more adult dependent upon Paul to make him wealthy. Each time the story is read one can better feel the weight of everyone's happiness resting on Paul's young shoulders.

Mr. Lawrence has written a story that is as relevant and haunting today as it was when it was written over fifty years ago. It is a story that requires every reader to question what unspoken messages are being whispered about in their own homes. Mr. Lawrence's message is not only riveting, but his writing skills, which allow all elements to work together, keep the story fresh and enlightening with each successive reading.


A Comparative Analysis of Irwin Shaw's "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" and Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" (Author Unknown)

      "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw is the story of a deteriorating relationship between a couple, Michael, and his wife, Frances. Frances requests that they spend the day alone, without interference from the Stevensons or other friends. As they stroll the streets of New York City, Frances notices that Michael is very busy admiring the women. Frances questions Michael concerning his preoccupation, and she seeks reassurance of his love for her. Michael reveals that he loves the way women look and when Frances asserts that one day he will be unfaithful, Michael agrees with her. Frances feels that the day is now ruined and resorts to calling the Stevensons. As Frances leaves the table, Michael admires her beauty, showing us that he thinks of his wife as just another pretty girl. Shaw's central idea is that relationships may stagnate due to a lack of communication and become relationships based solely on convenience.

"Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway is the story of a couple's conversation in a bar at a railroad station in Spain. As the couple consume their drinks, they speak of the girl's forthcoming operation. (Though never stated specifically, we can infer that it's an abortion.) The man repeatedly claims that the operation is solely her decision, but he states that he wants only her and that if she proceeds with the operation their relationship will revert to its former status. The man is very concerned that the girl will not go through with the operation, thus altering his present lifestyle. Hemingway's story, like Shaw's, demonstrates that honest communication is crucial to a loving relationship between people.

In both stories the characters are presented indirectly through dialogue and actions. Shaw and Hemingway create male characters who are insensitive to or inconsiderate of the feelings of the women in their lives. Michael blithely dismisses Frances' pleas for reassurance, while the American in "Hills Like White Elephants" attempts to coerce the woman to do what he wants her to do without blaming him for the consequences. Both women are insecure and concerned about their relationships, but neither is able to communicate with their partners; therefore, their futures are bleak.

The conflict in each story is between two people in a deteriorating relationships who fail to acknowledge that deterioration. Neither couple attempts to resolve their problems by further discussions; instead, they choose to ignore them.

Both stories have a dramatic point of view that requires the reader to interpret the main characters' feelings and attitudes, thereby creating a sense of intimacy between the characters and the reader. The point of view in Shaw's story shifts to the limited omniscient in the final paragraph in order to provide the important (and necessary) insight into Michael's attitude and values.

The settings of the stories are similar in that they are vague and not entirely necessary to portray the deteriorating relationships of a couples. Shaw uses a clear sunny day in New York City for his setting, but as the story progresses the setting shifts to a crowded area filled with stunted trees, and the story ends in a bar. The setting in Hemingway's story remains the same: the bar in a railroad station where the land is barren and desolate. Across the tracks are a river, trees, and fertile fields, indicating the full and rich relationship the girl would like to have.

Both authors use dialogue as the primary language tool to influence the reader's attitude toward the characters and show the strain in the characters' relationships. Both Shaw and Hemingway use irony and symbolism; however, Hemingway uses short sentences and phrases, whereas the sentence structure in Shaw's story is more complex. The language in both stories is tense and often sarcastic.

The tone in Shaw's story is serious and tense. Frances pleads with her husband, only to be hurt and angered by his unemotional and carefree attitude. The tone in "Hills Like White Elephants" is detached and impersonal, which parallels the failing relationship. Both stories leave the reader depressed, not only because the relationships are deteriorating, but also because none of the characters in either story makes an attempt to correct the situation.

"Hills Like White Elephants" and "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses remind us that open communication between people is important to a relationship in order to keep the relationship from deteriorating. Both stories are well unified, but Hemingway's decision not to name the operation in "Hills Like White Elephants" and his extensive use of symbolism make this a better story because the reader is more involved with an intensive examination of the story. "Hills Like White Elephants" initially leaves the reader puzzled, but after analyzing the symbolism, we become aware of Hemingway's creativity and theme.


A Comparative Analysis of John Updike's "A & P" and Sherwood Anderson's "I'm a Fool" by Dwight Paul Waites

      In the story "A & P" John Updike presents the tribulations of a nineteen-year-old adolescent in conflict with his small town middle class upbringing and the desire to enhance his self-image. In this protrayal, Sammy finds himself involved in unexpected events while at work one day at the local grocery store. He becomes fixated on three teenage girls who enter the store dressed in nothing but bathing suits. Throughout their visit he mentally studies their movements as if he has never encountered anything so enticing and sublime. The trouble begins when the manager of the grocery store, who is also a Sunday school teacher with a strong impression of what is publicly decent, approaches the girls and begins to explain how inappropriate it is for them to walk around in public dressed that way. Sammy decides that the best way to make an impression on these girls is to stand up for them even at the expense of his job. He tells the manager, "I quit," and then continues to tell him off. To Sammy's dismay, the girls missed his display of valiance and he is left with nothing more than his bravado for company.

Sherwood Anderson displays the same aspect of adolescent life through his story about Henry, a young middle-class boy who ends up making the same mistake as Sammy, although Henry does not execute his self-promotion in quite the same manner. At age nineteen Henry works as a stable boy for racehorses. Once he turns twenty, he gets a more socially acceptable job with better pay. On one of his days off, he puts on his new suit and goes to the races. He eventually sits with another young man and two girls in the section with the more well-to-do people. When the opportunity arises Henry flaunts his knowledge of horses by providing information on which horse is the best on which to bet. Needing a way to relate to these obviously wealthier kids, he lies and says that he is the son of a wealthy businessman and that the hourse they had bet on was his father's property. After the races he and his new love find themselves alone and discover a mutual infatuation. When the girl and her friends leave, the girl says she will write Henry. Henry realizes his impulsiveness has led him nowhere as the girl, if she writes, will discover his lies. Her letter is sure to be returned to her marked in such a way to show that he is not Mr. Mather's son.

The similarities of these two characters go beyond simply age. Both seem to come from a middle class upbringing. They seem to understand this class placement and allow their "birthright" to guide some of their actions. Although somewhat impulsive, they take risks that might carry them beyond their immediate status. They both demonstrate a yearning to feel special and noticed. The authors seem to highlight the worthlessness that sometimes accompanies adolescents as they discover things which seem to be just beyond their reach.

Both Updike and Anderson illustrate the common conflict that exists in adolescent youth. Sammy and Henry display internal conflicts between their limitations due to social class and the need to be admired. That need to be admired and the feeling that admiration will not come from the truth is more of an issue with Henry. He feels that he has to lie about his upbringing and place in life in order to be accepted. The truth is the girl likes him for himself, not for the lie about his "father being rich and all that." Sammy on the other hand does not lie. His conflict becomes an external one between him and the grocery store manager. He feels that if he comes to the girls' rescue he will win their favor, so he challenges his boss for deriding the girls. The fact is that both boys are capable of rectifying the situations they are in, but they are not yet wise enough to know this. On the positive side, both now have knowledge of the presence of this type of conflict and both can learn from their mistakes.

The first-person point-of-view is used in both these stories to focus the reader's attention strictly on the boys' perceptions of the world. In using this point of view readers are made to feel that these boys embody very real emotions, giving them a sense of realism. Readers may even identify a time in their own lives when youthful indiscretion caused unnecessary conflict. This type of narrative also allows insight into both Sammy's and Henry's perception of their experiences and what led up to them. In "I'm a Fool,: Henry remembers the situation and recounts his past experience, whereas in "A & P" Sammy narrates his experience as it happens. Henry's narration as an account of his past allows readers insight into how people gain wisdom from youthful mistakes.

While the physical settings are very different, the psychological settings in both stories are very similar. The need for social approval found in both boys stems from their middle class upbringing. The differences as they go about trying to achieve approval also relates to the setting. Sammy's rebellion can be seen as a reaction to the basic morality he faces in his hometown, a very ordinary and uneventful small town. Henry's lying can be seen as a reaction to the strict class separation present during that time of history. A horse track is used as the main setting because it is a place where there is some blurring of the division between classes.

The language techniques used by both authors are seemingly different although they achieve the same message. Updike uses dialogue to reveal the conflict within Sammy and also to display his youthfulness. The store manager, a friend of Sammy's parents, says, "you don't want to do this to your Mom and Dad." Readers are forced to see Sammy's youth and innocence. Anderson achieves the same result when Henry uses phrases such as "gee whizz" and "craps amighty." Although the authors use different techniques, both appeal to the audience's views on adolescence.

The tone achieved by these stories is based on humor at the expense of growing up. Both Updike and Anderson handily illustrate the impulsivity of youth who yearn to be accepted. Although "I'm a Fool" clearly shows the wisdom that stems from these youthful mistakes and "A & P" does not, purpose is still achieved by both. "A & P" focuses more on the entertainment aspect of life while Anderson makes more of a statement about life's lessons in "I'm a Fool." Each of these stories is written in a folksy, down-to-earth manner. The type of experience a reader is searching for dictates one's preference for one over the other. Both authors manage to achieve entertainment value while demonstrating social truths.



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