Short Story Analysis

by Mallika Sabhnani


Plot is the most basic element of storytelling. A story's plot is what happens in the story and the order it happens in.The author of course 'plans' this plot so that the story has a structure that is slowly revealed. In ‘The Most Dangerous Game’, plot is used as we follow the story of Rainsford and his adventure on this abandoned island. The events that take place starting from Rainsfords conversation with Whitney are all part of the plot.


The setting is used to identify and establish the time, place and mood of the events of the story. It basically helps in establishing where and when and under what circumstances the story is taking place. For example, In ‘Harrison Bergeron’ the author opens the story by explaining that the year is 2081, and sets the tone that “everybody is finally equal”


Characterization is an important part of making a story involving & interesting. In order to capture and move readers, characters need to seem real. Authors achieve this by providing details that make characters relate to the readers and grow throughout the story. For example, in ‘The Scarlet Ibis’, Brother is very rash and temperamental by leaving Doodle in the woods alone, but once he sees Doodle dead, he immediately feels remorse and regret. Good characterization gives readers a strong sense of characters' personalities; it makes characters seem alive and believable.


Every plotline involves some kind of conflict. Conflict is a fight or argument between two forces. These forces can be either internal (feelings) or external (physical). There are many different ways an author can portray conflict in a story, like Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Self. For example, in ‘The Most Dangerous Game’, the survival competition between General Zaroff and Rainsford would be filed under Man v Man conflict, since they are competing for Rainsford’s freedom.


The theme links all aspects of the literary work with one another and is basically the main subject. In fiction, the theme is intended to portray a moral lesson. In fact, it is not presented directly at all. The reader must extract it from the characters actions, and the general plotline that make up the story. In other words, you must figure out the theme yourself; Rarely is the theme presented directly. In “The Gift of Magi’, an outside narrator takes control of the ending, and explains that “all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest.” From this, the reader can pick up that the general theme is that simple human kindness is key.


Irony in short is to say one thing and do the opposite. There are many different types of irony, such as situational, cosmic, dramatic, socratic, and sarcasm. For example, In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ the cops in the story talk about how the murder weapon must be "Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?" And in the other room, “Mary Maloney began to giggle.” The irony here would be that the cops are in fact eating the lamb that was used to kill Patrick, proving what they said to be true without even knowing.


Foreshadowing is used to suggest an upcoming outcome to the story. This is done by showing certain events that the reader will pick up on to create a suggested think route for the rest of the story. Foreshadowing can add tension or suspense to the narrative. In ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, we can start to see where things could go wrong as Montresor leads Fortunato into the dark abyss of the catacombs.


Imagery is created using descriptive words and phrases to allow the reader to picture a scene mentally. It works with the senses and can deal with all of them; the olfactory, the visual, the taste, the touch, the hearing, the smell. Imagery allows the reader to immerse themselves even further in a story. In ‘Harrison Bergeron’, we get to see clear imagery as the author describes the burdens that were placed on the ‘too advanced’ in society.

Tone & Mood

Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject.Through tone, the reader is able to learn about a character's personality and disposition. However, the tone also shapes the work as a whole, and whether the piece should be read as a serious, funny, dramatic or upsetting. We get to see a good example of tone in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’. Immediately starting out, Montresor says “that my to smile now as at the thought of his immolation”. This sets the tone for a very dark, ‘murderous’ almost mood.

Point of View

Point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. First person limits the reader to one character's perspective. Third person is used when a talking directly to the audience, and it is often used in school work, such as research papers. We get to see a 3rd person perspective in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, where Roald Dahl uses the pronouns him, her, she, he, etc.