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.

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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 literary criticism 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.


In a formal or informal sketch outline of one of the above topics, list the major assertions and subtopics of your paper. This outline should form the basic structure for your research paper, but you may find that you change or modify the paper or outline in your actual writing and revision.

The outline should, minimally, contain the following elements:

  1. A creative, unique title for your paper.
  2. A statement of your thesis at the top.
  3. Parallel topics and subtopics.
  4. Complete sentences, unless phrases are clear.
  5. At least two sub-categories for each paragraph topic listed.
  6. A conventional system of numbers and letters (I.A.1.a., etc

Then in a carefully constructed paper of 1,500-1,750 words, respond to the topic you chose. 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 Topic 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).


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.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion

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