Short Story Elements

Simran Jamwal


The plot of a story is very important as it is basically all of the events which comprise the story. These series of events are related to one another, most commonly through cause and effect, and help build up the story to its climax, and then help it reach a conclusion, all the while, making an attempt to make an impact on the reader.

For example, the short story "The Most Dangerous Game" consisted of a series of events in which the man ended up on the island and eventually had to hunt with General Zaroff. The story ended with the man, named Rainsford, eventually defeating the General. This story effectively shows a series of events which are related to one another through cause and effect and help bild up to the story's climax, and then back down to its conclusion.


Setting can help set the mood for the story and it is basically where all of the events in the story take place.

In short story "Cask of Amontillado" , Montressor takes Fortunato to the very dark and damp catacombs, which is considered one of the settings of the story, and that gives the story a dark tone as well as foreshadowing that something bad will happen.


Characterization is a description of the characters in the story. It shows their personality and what type of person they are, as well as showing how they change throughout the story (if they change). A character may be dynamic or static. A dynamic character shows change throughout the story while a static character does not show any change. The author may describe a character through direct or indirect characterization. Direct characterization is when the author explicitly states the characer's personality, while indirect characterization is when the author portrays the character's personailty through their actions and vertain events that take place.

In the story "Lamb to the Slaughter", Mary is a dynamic character who changes thoughout the story from a calm and cool person to a very angry person who ends up murdering her husband. The author uses indirect characterization to show this. She seems like a very helpless woman in the beginning as she is sad and is crying, but then the reader views her as a murderer and a vicious person once she kills her husband.


A conflict is the main problem in the story or basically what the character is going through. There are 4 different types of conflict: Man vs. Self, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Man.

The conflict in the story "Scarlet Ibis" was Man vs. Self as the main character attempted to teach his brother to walk and run solely because of his own pride. He tried to teach his brother everything as he was ashamed of having a brother who was disabled, and all his actions were based around himself and his pride.


Theme is somewhat like the moral of a story and describes a universal truth to which everyone can relate to. There can always be more than one theme to a story depending on how the author interprets the story.

The theme in "Scarlet Ibis" was that one should never let their pride overpower their actions in a bad way to where an individual can be torn apart from their loved ones. This is shown when the boy states that he "did not know then that pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death" (Hurst 3).


Something is ironic when it is contradictory to what is expected to happen or it is the opposite of the actual literal meaning. There are 3 different types of Irony. Situational Irony is when a situation itself is ironic. Verbal irony can include sarcasm, an understatement, or an overstatement. Dramatic Irony is when the audience knows about something the characters are unaware of.

An example of situational irony would be in "Lamb to the Slaughter" when the wife feeds the police investigators the weapon she used to kill her own husband. This is ironic as they say they feel they are near the murder weapon and it seems to them as if it is "probaby right under our very noses" (Dahl). The investigator said this as he was eating the lamb, or murder weapon.

Literary Devices

Literary Devices are elements and techniques that an author can use to enhance his/her writing and make an effective impact on the reader. Examples of literary devices include imagery, diction, similes, metaphors, personification...etc.

The short story "Scarlet Ibis" uses a simile, a type of literary device, when the boy describes the scarlet ibis which lay dead in front of them. He says that "even death did not mar it's grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken vase of red flowers" (Hurst 5). The author uses a simile to describe the bird's beauty more effectively by comparing it to a broken vase of red roses.

The short story "Scarlet Ibis" also does a great job of painting a picture of beautiful scenes in the readers mind through the use of imagery. This literary device allows the author to paint a picture in the readers mind, especially when he says that "the slanted rays of the sun burned orange in the tops of the pines" (Hurst 2). This helps the reader understand how beautiful the place really is.


Symbolism is when the author uses certain objects to represent or symbolize something else, usually a character's emotions, thoughts, or beliefs.

In the short story "Cask of Amontillado", Edgar Allan Poe uses the characters' costumes to symbolize an aspect of their personality or what they had set out to do. Montressor was dressed in a "mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire about my personality" (Poe 2). This is symbolic for his dark and evil intentions which are kept hidden under his fake mask of kindness. Fortunato, on the other hand, is dressed in a "tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells" (Poe 2). Fortunato was dressed much like a fool, showing his role in the story, as he was easily fooled by Montresor and lured to his own death.

Point of View

The point of view of the story is the perspective it is written in. A story written in 1st person point of view is written from the perspective of a character directly in the book, while a story written in 3rd person point of view is written from the perspective of a narrator or basically someone who is not directly a character in the story.

The short story "Cask of Amontillado" is written in 1st person point of view as it is from the perspective of Montresor, who is the main character in the story.


The tone of an author can be described as the voice or attitude the author writes the story in. A piece of literature can have many different tones such as formal, informal, calm, full of suspense, happy, or even sad. The tone the author uses to write can then affect the mood of the reader while he/she reads the story. The mood of a story provokes the reader's emotions, causing one to feel a certain way while reading a story. These emotions are affected by the tone the author uses.

In "Cask of Amontillado", Edgar Allan Poe uses a very dark and suspenseful tone when he describes the vaults Montresor takes Fortunato to as "long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs" (Poe 3). This dark and suspenseful tone gives this passage a very eerie and evil mood, making the reader feel frightened.