In a carefully constructed paper of 1,500-1,750 words, respond to one of the following suggested topics. Make sure that your paper has a focused, narrow, assertive thesis, and that it contains abundant textual support for all subassertions and claims (direct quotations, paraphrases, or summaries). Review Appendix 4 in the The Story and Its Writer, “Writing About Short Stories,” and the Module 2 Lecture for information on writing critical analyses of short stories. This paper should be an analysis, not merely an explication, of the text(s).

Topic One: Analysis of Style in Relation to Theme – Choose one or two assigned short stories and analyze how specific elements of fiction, such as symbolism, imagery, setting, characterization, plot structure, or language contribute to the story’s central theme (e.g., imagery of light, vision, and beauty in “Araby”). Make sure you explain how and why, and make your thesis very specific and unique (do not merely present a statement of fact about the story or stories).

Topic Two: Biographical Analysis of a Story or Stories – Choose two short stories by the same author and explain how specific information about the author’s biography further elucidates or clarifies those short stories. Using credible, scholarly sources, research the author’s life, and focus on one specific aspect of that author’s life (religious background, education, specific experiences abroad or in specific schools, etc.) and on how that aspect of the author’s life provides further insight into how and why the author chose specific themes or literary techniques.

Topic Three: Comparison and Contrast – Choose two or more assigned short stories and compare and contrast their unique presentations of topics (e.g., compare and contrast the treatment of marriage in “The Story of an Hour,” “A Rose for Emily,” and “The Yellow Wallpaper.”)

Topic Four: The Application of a Literary Critical Model to a Short Story – Apply a specific method of  to one or two short stories in an attempt to further elucidate or enlarge a reader’s understanding of the story or stories (e.g., a feminist critical reading of “The Story of an Hour,” “I Stand Here Ironing,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,”). Make sure your paper contains a specific, narrow thesis statement.

Prepare this assignment according to the MLA guidelines found in the MLA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center.

This assignment uses four grading rubric, located in the topic material. Instructors will be using the rubrics to grade the assignment; therefore, students should review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the assignment criteria and expectations for successful completion of the assignment.

1. Reading and Writing about Literature

Read chapter 8, “Writing a Literary Research

2. The Story and Its Writer

Read Chinua Achebe, “Civil Peace.”

Read Jorge Luis Borges, “The Circular Ruins.”

Read Albert Camus, “The Guest.”

Read Julio Cortazar, “A Continuity of Parks.”

Read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “A Very Old Man with
Enormous Wings.”

Read Jhumpa Lahiri, “Interpreter of Maladies

Lecture Reading

Multicultural and International Short Fiction


Multicultural and international short fiction offers
students of literature the opportunity to immerse themselves in unfamiliar
cultures and settings, to enter into a conversation among different voices and
cultures, and to “evaluate human relationships in an attempt to understand
better the meanings of community in our own pluralistic… and… multicultural
society” (Gillespie, Fonseca, & Sanger, 1998, p. xxi). Fiction written
from a multicultural perspective offers students the paradoxical experience of
both confronting that which is foreign and different and simultaneously
confronting that which is highly personal and familiar. This recognition of
oneself in others can be unifying and regenerative, according to the Mexican
writer Carlos Fuentes (1998):

People and their cultures perish in isolation, but they are
born or reborn in contact with other men and women, with men and women of
another culture, another creed, another race. If we do not recognize our
humanity in others, we will not recognize it in ourselves. (Fuentes, in
Gillespie, Fonseca, & Sanger, p. xxi)

While diverse in its topics, themes, and literary styles,
multicultural and international fiction nonetheless powerfully conveys the
reality of human experiences, relationships, and communities, thus forging
connections among people and cultures.

International Writers

The best and most anthologized international writers share
the ability to thoroughly and quintessentially convey the nature of specific
cultures, nations, and people, while at the same time universalizing these
specificities into the broader social, psychological, and spiritual human
experience. In the short story, “The Guest,” from Exile and the
Kingdom (1957), a collection of stories, Albert Camus presents a protagonist
torn between his own ideals of justice, integrity, and compassion, and his
loyalty to his nation. Camus, born and raised in Algeria by immigrant parents,
convincingly portrays the tension the protagonist feels as he considers the
demands of the French officials, his own love for the Algerian land and people,
and his recognition that the “Guest” is human like himself, though
feared and despised by the French. Ultimately, the story suggests that human
agency is necessary, though one must act in a world that is unsympathetic, and
even hostile, to one’s efforts. In the story “The Accident,” Chinese
writer Gao Xingjian, likewise, emphasizes the existential loneliness and
alienation of humanity through a factual and spare description of a fatal
accident juxtaposed against the trivial chatter of onlookers.

Magical Realism and Short Fiction

One important literary technique common in some
international fiction is magical realism, a style in which the framework of
realism is maintained, but fantastic or supernatural elements are inserted into
the narrative. The term itself was coined by German writer Franz Roh in 1925 to
describe work “characterized by clear, cool, static, thinly-painted,
sharp-focus images, frequently portraying the imaginary, the improbable, or the
fantastic in a realistic or rational manner” (Drabble, 1996, p. 615). The
fiction of magical realism includes fully developed characters and detailed,
realistic settings, but these narratives also prominently feature myths,
dreams, fantasy, or the supernatural. The juxtaposition of realism and fantasy
forces readers to interpret narratives in new, unconventional ways. As the
Argentinean writer Julio Cortazar notes, such fiction reveals “openings
onto estrangement, instances of a dislocation in which the ordinary ceases to
be tranquilizing” (Cortazar, in Charters, 2007, p. 325).

Though works of magical realism appear in German, American,
Eastern European, and British literature, the movement is most directly
associated with the Latin American writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio
Cortazar, Carlos Fuentes, Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Maria Luisa Bombal,
and Octavio Paz. The Colombian writer Garcia Marquez includes in his stories
and novels the folklore and mythology of Caribbean Colombia, passed down to him
by his grandmother, a masterful storyteller (Rosenberg, 1992, p. 633).
According to Garcia Marquez, the real and the fantastic cannot be separated. He

It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work
comes for the imagination while the truth is that there’s not a single line in
all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that
Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination. (Marquez, in Rosenberg,
1992, p. 633)

Many of these Latin American writers also shared an avid
interest in political protest, rebellion, or political and social advocacy.
They viewed their fiction as a vehicle for social and political change and for
personal expression and critique in societies and regimes that were repressive.
In an interview in 1986, Fuentes explained:

I think people have to be one-man bands in Latin America…
A writer often has to take the place of the weak or nonexistent parliaments,
unions, free newspapers… On a private level, one writes not to die, but one
also writes with the hope that the world will not die either.” (Fuentes, in
Charters, 1991, pp. 1444-1445)

However, the political protest and social advocacy of these
writers’ works is often softened by the magical realist elements, as well as by
humor, satire, and irony.

Achebe: Narrative as Social Critique

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe also produced fictional
narratives that served as political and social critiques. Best known for the
novel Things Fall Apart (1958), he is a prolific short story writer and
novelist. His work depicts the cultural conflict and change in Nigerian society
as a result of Western colonization. The son of Christian converts, he grew up
in a society in which the beliefs of Christianity and the rituals of
traditional Nigerian religions were indiscriminately mixed. His story,
“Civil Peace,” is from the collection Girls at War and Other Stories
(1972), written after the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) (Rosenberg, 1992).

Lessing: The Epiphany Narrative

Many international writers include in their fiction moments
of epiphany, where characters have a brief, but profound moment of insight in
which they view the world and themselves in a new way. One of the most famous
epiphanic short stories is “A Sunrise on the Veld,” written by Doris
Lessing, who was raised in a remote part of Rhodesia. Though she was born in
Persia (now Iran) and later settled in London, Lessing’s fiction reverberates
with the immense landscape and compelling cultures of the continent of Africa.
She describes Africa as always haunting and dominating her perceptions,
“an inexplicable majestic silence lying just over the border of memory or
of thought” (Lessing, in Charters, 2007, p. 785). In “A Sunrise on
the Veld,” a young boy is confronted with the death of a buck at just the
moment when he feels himself most powerful, free, and invincible. This confrontation
with mortality leads to the epiphany that changes the boy, paradoxically both
maturing him into a man and deflating his illusions of manhood.


Multi-cultural and international fiction, though varied in
style, literary technique, and topic, perhaps more than anything else
demonstrates to students of literature the common humanity shared by all
people. No other artistic form so compellingly portrays the common struggles,
emotions, joys, challenges, and fears humans share. In reading and studying
international fiction, students truly do learn to see themselves in the faces
of others, and thus learn to see themselves with increased compassion and understanding.


Charters, A. (1991). The story and its writer: An
introduction to short fiction (3rd ed.).

Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Charters, A. (2007). The story and its writer: An
introduction to short fiction. (7th ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Drabble, M. (Ed.). (1996). The Oxford companion to English
literature (Rev. Ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Gillespie, S., Fonseca, T., & Sanger, C. (1998).
Literature across cultures (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Rosenberg, D. (1992). World literature: An anthology of
great short stories, drama, and poetry. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook