World Literature through Short Stories

"In a Groveby Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Japanese) 7 pgs

Various witnesses give testimony in a murder--but strangely enough, all of the major participants claim to have committed the murder! Which are lying and why? 
Genre: realistic historical
Setting: late medieval Japan

Writing Choice 1: Present a case solving the murder.  What does each person expect to gain by claiming credit for the murder?  Your response must rely heavily on the testimony given--cite specific testimony by using quotes. 

Writing Choice 2: Discuss the differences in culture presented in the text.  Americans want a solution; the Japanese love this story as it is.  Does the abandonment of the omniscient narrator in favor of a more distant and objective style reflect the Buddhist theme of "the uncertainty of the world?"  It may be helpful to view the woodcutter's version of events as depicted in the Kurosawa film.

Rashomon Trailer (1950) 1:49   
Rashomon Trailer (2008)
Film inspired by Rashomon (2007)
Rashomon Trailer (2007) 1:06   
Whole film (1950)

"In the Shadow of War" by Ben Okri (Nigerian) 3 pgs; pg 970 Literature Text, Holt, Rinehart, Winston Series, Sixth Course (Purple cover)

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The United States has not had prolonged warfare on its own soil since 1865, but many countries have almost constant war.  War affects everyone harshly.  In this story, what a child witnesses may change him forever. 
Genre: realistic historical
Setting: A village in modern Nigeria

Writing Choice 1: The radio plays a symbolic role in Okri's story.  Find all the references to the radio and then write a short essay explaining its significance. 

Writing Choice 2: write an essay discussing "In the Shadow of War" as an initiation or rite-of-passage story.

"The Library of Babel" by Jorgé Luis Borges (Argentinean) 8 pgs

A bizarre, fantastical world consisting of only an endless library--can meaning ever be found? 

Writing Choice 1: Write an essay discussing the use of symbols in "The Library of Babel".  Discuss possible interpretations.

"Lost in the Fun House" by John Barth                                           Need help?

A lively, highly original short story-- a major landmark of experimental fiction--Advanced students only

Writing Choice 1:

Writing Choice 2:

"Love: Three Pages from a Sportsman's Notebook" by Guy De Maupassant (French) 5  1/2 pgs

A hunter goes on a trip in which he learns something he didn't expect. 
Genre: realistic historical
Setting: the French countryside

Writing Choice 1: Present a case interpreting what the narrator learned about sportsmanship and humanity. 

Writing Choice 2: Investigate the symbolism used in this story. 

"The Man who was almost a Man" by Richard Wright (American) "Study Guide".  Ali Nihat Eken Blog.  Mitrevski, George.  "Study Guide".  Auburn University.   

An impoverished young man's life takes a sharp turn when he gets a gun.  Contains dialect.  Uses the N-word. 
Genre: realistic historical
Setting: The American South, Great Depression

Writing Choice 1: Write an essay discussing the gun as a symbol.   

Writing Choice 2: Write an essay discussing the story as a portrayal of White oppression of African-Americans. 

Writing Choice 3: Write an essay discussing "The Man" as an initiation or rite-of-passage story. 

Writing Choice 4: Write an essay discussing the irony of Dave's choices in "The Man Who was Almost a Man" 

"Nine Lives" by Ursula K. Le Guin (American)   not found online, but find it on the I-Drive

The ultimate individualist--a miner colonist on a distant uninhabited planet--finds he has to deal with the ultimate herd-mentalities --a clone team of ten. 

Genre: science fiction
Setting: a remote mining planet

Writing Choice 1: Does similarity in a group negate individuality?   

Writing Choice 2:  Which is the most significant effect of total immersion in a group: The handicapping the individual or the strengthening of the group?  What significance does this story have for the understanding of individuality vs. group membership?  What kinds of societies have stressed one over the other? 

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelasby Ursula K. LeGuin (American), 5 1/2 pages  Theme: value and responsibility of the individual

In an imaginary city, everyone lives the perfect life.  There will, however, be a price to pay.  Still, most people accept it…
Genre: Fantasy
Setting: another world

Writing Choice 1: What is a utopia? Does Omelas meet the definition?  What is the narrator's opinion of Omelas?   Why do some walk away? What implied criticism of our own society are evident in this story?  Give examples of this problem in modern-day society.  Are there things in our society that should cause us to walk away?

Writing Choice 2: In this story of responsibility and humanity,  how do you gauge the value of one versus many?  Is the one right to accept suffering?  Or is the other right to walk away?

Writing Choice 3: Can this story also be interpreted as symbolic of inner psychology?  Are people sometimes asked to lock up their inner child to achieve success in the world? 

"Patriotism" by Yukio Mishima (Japanese) Not found online, but find it on the I-Drive.                 help

Things go wrong in an attempted coup. 

Genre: realistic historical
Setting: Japan, 1950s?

Writing Choice 1: Write an essay discussing the roles and relationships between man and woman in Japanese culture as presenting in the story.  .

Writing Choice 2: Write an essay discussing traditional morality and modernity in pre-World War II Japan as presenting in the story. 

Writing Choice 2: Write an essay discussing the dilemma between friendship and duty as presenting in the story. 

"The Ring" by Isak Dinesen  pg 1070, Literature Text, Holt, Rinehart, Winston Series, Sixth Course (Purple cover)

A desperate man, a naïve woman
Genre: realistic
Setting: Denmark

Writing Choice 1: Did Lise bargain for her life or give charity to a man in need?  Was Lise robbed?  Is this a fairy tale? 

Writing Choice 2: Write an essay discussing the use of symbols in "The Ring".

"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombian) 5 pgs In green textbook, pg 223

A strange man-like creature is found.  Is it an angel or something else? 

Genre: magic realism
Setting: A small town in South America

Writing Choice 1: Gabriel Garcia Marquez often employs vivid imagery in his writing. In an essay explain how "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" uses imagery and for what purpose. You must use specific quotes from the story and explain how they enhance the story's overall theme through imagery.

Writing Choice 2: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is often considered to be a work of magic realism . In an essay explain how this story functions as a work of magical realism using specific quotes from the story as well as a complete definition of magical realism.

Writing Choice 3: Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses Biblical allusions in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" to discuss the role faith and belief has in our lives. In an essay explain how this story demonstrates how faith affects our lives. Using specific quotes from the story, connect passages to quotes from the Bible, specifically focusing on the overall thematic purpose of Marquez's story.

Writing Choice 4: People in the village feel empathy for the Spider Woman but not for that angel.  Why do people react differently to the two? 

"Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald,  pg , Literature Text, Holt, Rinehart, Winston Series, Fifth Course (red cover)

He's still chasing her when warning bells should have been going off. 

Genre: realistic fiction
Setting: high society

Writing Choice 1: How would "Winter Dreams" be different if it maintained the exact same rags-to-riches plot line, but with a woman protagonist instead of a man? Would such a plot be possible for a short story written in 1922? What would Fitzgerald have to change to make "Winter Dreams" work with a female main character?

Writing Choice 2: Compare "Winter Dreams" and The Great Gatsby in their portrayals of the dark side of the American Dream.  Fitzgerald has said that "Winter Dreams" was the beginning of his idea for his most famous novel, but The Great Gatsby's plot departs from "Winter Dreams" in a couple of key ways. How does the introduction of Nick Carraway as the frame narrator affect The Great Gatsby's tone? What are the similarities and differences between Dexter Green and Jay Gatsby? Why might Fitzgerald have made these changes in revising "Winter Dreams" into a much longer novel?

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