Essay: Short Stories


Write an essay in which you choose at least two literary elements, such as plot, characterization, symbol, point of view, tone, or style, to connect these elements to a story’s overall theme. How does the author use these elements to convey this theme? You may write about any of the stories we’ve read so far:

“How to Date a Brown girl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie,” by Junot Diaz
“The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien
“The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin

For plot, think about how the sequence of events may or may not be conventional. Does the author play with plot structure at all?

For characterization, think about how the characters are protagonistic or antagonistic, archetypal, or anti-heroic. Also, think about the growth of the character within the story. How does he or she change (or not)?

For a point of view, think about whether the story is written from a certain character’s point of view (1st or 2nd person), or from an omniscient (all-knowing) narrator’s point of view (3rd person) and how this impacts the story. Do you trust the narrator?

For tone, think about how the author conveys attitude through diction, syntax, and imagery. Especially if the story is written in the third person, is the tone of the narrator different from the characters he or she writes about? If so, why?

For style, think about how the author uses devices like imagery, irony, diction, and symbol to add meaning to the story.

Here are some sample thesis statements:

O’Brien incorporates raw war imagery, archetypal characters, and third-person omniscient point of view to emphasize that soldiers often attempt to ease the weight of physical and emotional burdens of war by holding onto memories of love and peace but that sometimes even that is not enough.

Chopin uses complex narration to present a character that struggles internally, symbolism to represent the character’s supposed new freedom, and irony in establishing her death, all to critique the role of marriage in society.

Diaz uses colloquial tone, 2nd person limited-omniscient point of view, and anti-heroic characterization to demonstrate the uselessness of stereotypes because of their diminishment of identity.


Your introduction must hook the reader and briefly summarize the story. It should also identify the story’s title and the author’s full name.

Your thesis must be the last sentence of your introduction. Your thesis must reveal your overall position.

You must cite a portion of the story or stories in each paragraph.

Your proof of writing center visit (for extra credit) will be due via email on the same day the essay is due on Canvas.

Sample Solution

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