Short Story Study Guide

By: Fallon, Ashlee, Alex, and Grayson

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Summary

To build a fire is about a man in the Yukon who wanders off with his “wolf-dog.” He is faced with many challenges along his trek. As the story progresses the temperature decreases below -50 degrees. Causing the man to have to stop and build a fire. He is successful the first couple times in starting a fire but when he fails and begins to lose motor skills in his body he is unable to start a fire and dies from hyperthermia.

Characters and Vocabulary

Characters: The Man: He is the main character in the story and is never given a true name. He is a very adventurous man who is also not very bright and doesn’t feel cold.

The wolf-dog: The dog is the companion of the man and his instinctive views go against what the man does. The dog views people as simply fire and food providers

The old man at sulfur creek: This character is not present in the story but plays a strong role in the story. He once gave advice to the man who took it for granted.

The Boys: Like the old man at sulfur creek is not present in the story but are viewed through the man as a ending goal and conclusion.

Vocabulary:

Spittle: saliva (throughout the whole story he had chewing tobacco in)

Ebbed: gradually lessen or reduce

Poignant: to cause a strong feeling of pain and sadness

Figurative Language

-Setting:

“The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice.”

-Simile:

"Once, coming around a bend, he moved suddenly to the side, like a frightened horse”

-Foreshadowing:

"Almost immediately the water on them turned to ice. The dog made quick efforts to get the ice off its legs."

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Summary

The grandma reads in the newspaper about the Misfit, who is on the run in Florida, and she suggests that the family goes to Tennessee instead of Florida. The family decides to go to Florida. The family stops at a restaurant called the Tower, owned by Red Sammy Butts. Red Sammy tells them about the two boys whom he let buy gasoline on credit and never came back. The family drives to a plantation that the grandma wants to go to. On the way, they get in a wreck. A car stops, and men with guns get out. The grandma recognizes the Misfit. The grandma tries to convince the Misfit that he is a good man, but he ends up killing the whole family.

Characters and Vocabulary

Characters: Grandma, Misfit, Bailey, John Wesley, June Star

Vocabulary:

Pickaninny- small black child

Nickelodeon- jukebox

Dilated- make larger

Figurative Language

-Simile

“She had her big black valise that looked like the head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it.”

-Characterization

“Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.”

-Imagery

“She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and their mother and gone back to sleep.”

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Summary

A man from the East went to a western mining town. The narrator spoke with Simon Wheeler to ask about Leonidas W. Smiley. Simon Wheeler told the narrator a story about a man named Jim Smiley. Jim Smiley was a man who made bets all the time. He found a frog that could jump far, and he bet a stranger that his frog, Dan’l Webster, could jump higher than any other frog. When Smiley wasn't looking, the stranger filled the frog with quail shot, and Smiley lost the bet. The stranger disappeared with the $40 he won by cheating before Smiley figured out what happened.

Characters and Vocabulary

Characters: Jim Smiley, Dan’l Webster, Simon Wheeler, Narrator

Vocabulary:

Garrulous- talkative

Ornery- bad tempered and combative

Mare- female horse

Figurative Language

-Dialect

“He ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal'klated to edercate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump.”

-Hyperbole

“bore me nearly to death”

-Characterization

“I noticed that he was fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance.”

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Summary

The narrator introduces herself and tells the audience that her husband is a physician and she's been diagnosed with nervous depression. Her husband confines her to the upstairs room of a summer estate they're renting out. She is locked up for so long that she begins to hallucinate and the wallpaper is what she projects her hallucinations onto. As time goes by, she begins seeing a woman trapped behind bars in the wallpaper. As her hallucinations progress, she begins seeing the woman creeping around outside and sees severed heads at the bottom of the wallpaper that she claims are from women who have tried to escape. Her final descent into her psychosis occurs when she begins ripping the wallpaper off and creeping around the room, disregarding her fainted husband on the floor.

Characters and Vocabulary

Characters: narrator, John, and Jennie

Vocabulary:

Fatuity- silly and pointless

Grotesque- comical, ugly, or distorted

Impertinence- lack of respect or rudeness

Derision- contemptuous or ridicule

Figurative Language

-Personification

"It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions."

-Imagery

"Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars."

-Repetition

"Round and round and round--round and round and round--it makes me dizzy!"

-Simile

"I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping

as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind."

A Pair of Silk Stockings

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Summary

A woman is given $15 and originally plans to use it for her children. When she goes to a department store and comes across a very soft pair of silk stockings she gets caught up in the feeling of being wealthy. She feels important with this amount of money and like she can fit in with the upper class. She buys a lot of items she doesn't need, treats herself to lunch and a show. In the end, she doesn't want to go back home and return to a life of poverty.

Characters and Vocabulary

Characters: Mrs. Sommers, her kids, and the woman in the theatre

Vocabulary:


Porte-monnaie- French word for purse

Percale- a closely woven fine cotton or polyester fabric

Retrospection- the action of looking back on or reviewing past events or situations, especially those in one's own life

Besieging- crowd around oppressively; surround and harass

Fastidious- very attentive to and concerned about accuracy and detail

Figurative Language

-Simile

"A vision of the future like some dim, gaunt monster sometimes appalled her, but luckily to-morrow never comes.”

"She smiled, just as if she had been asked to inspect a tiara of diamonds with the ultimate view of purchasing it.”

"It was like a dream ended.”