The American author Edgar Allen Poe is often considered the father and first theoretician of the short story. For him "the short story is a story that is short" and can be read in one go in half an hour two hours maximum.
The short story is short because of the following characteristics:
importance. The problem the story is about is usually not developed to the full and does
not try to show a solution. The reader should keep on thinking about the story after reading.
When you analyse a short story you may often come to the following conclusions:
1. The exposition (introduction), consisting of very few lines, is long enough to attract the reader's attention and to help him understand the setting.
2. Usually just ordinary people are presented.
3. The protagonist is depicted in an exceptional or very ordinary, everyday situation.
4. Usually the story covers a very short time span.
5. Omniscient narrator (3rd person narrator) => unlimited point of view OR: 1st' person narrator => limited point of view.
6. The characters are usually presented and characterised by the way they speak and act.
7. Usually simply comprehensible standard English.
8. Dialogues usually cover most of the story.
9. No long and extended descriptions of landscapes and psychological situations => more typical for novels.
10. Immediate beginning and open ending.
The increasing popularity of the short story in America was due to the spread of weekend editions of newspapers and magazines. The short story became the bread and butter job of the average American writer.
Try to answer the following questions when you analyse a short story:
1. How does the story start?
2. What is the setting like? (Where? When? Which social class?)
3. In which situation is the protagonist shown?
4. How much time does the story cover?
5. What is the narrative point of view?
6. How are the characters displayed?
7. Which level of language is being used?
8. What is the relation of narrative parts to dialogues?