Big ideas offered in short stories.

In preparing for a class I’ll be teaching this semester, I have been reading a number of short stories. What started out as an exploration of short stories appropriate for middle school aged students turned into a reading of many other short stories purely for the enjoyment.

Inadvertently, I stumbled upon writings that helped me hone my thoughts on a number of issues, one in particular that has jump started my stalled research on a potential book topic. As a result, I am developing a true love of short stories, and encourage you to take the time to read a few. For people who don’t have copious amounts of time to devote to reading for whatever reason, they are an excellent way to read and enjoy thought-provoking, well structured stories.

A few good reads include (each can be read online at the linked titles):

  • White Nights, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The ironic title of this story notwithstanding, the tale of this lovelorn, Mitty-esque protagonist stayed with me for a long time after I finished it.
  • The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant. I chose this one for the slate of stories for our class. This lesson in the perils of female vanity is a timeless tale. Well worth the read.
  • Sweat, by Zora Neale Hurston. The tragic story of a black washerwoman and her abusive, insecure husband. The southern dialect takes a few paragraphs to get used to.
  • The Land Lady, by Roald Dahl. A creepy tale with a lot of room for imaginary exercise. We’ll be using this one in my class this semester.
  • Spunk, also by Zora Neale Hurston. This story of a fatal love triangle, contrasted against the tragic Sweat, exemplifies the observable love/hate relationship Hurston seemed to have with the ideas of love and marriage. On the one hand she found strong men electrifying but was equally wary of weakness in a man masquerading as strength. Again, language barrier alert.
  • The Gift of the Magi, by O Henry. I hesitated to include this one since it is so well known, but it’s probably been a long time since most of us have read it. A wonderful story employing literary irony and the beauty of selfless marital sacrifice. We’re using this one in my class semester because it’s more than just a Christmas story.

Feel free to add more short stories in the comments.

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