A Guide to American Literature Short Stories for High School Students
As high school students begin to explore American literature, one of the most important genres to study is the short story. Short stories offer a condensed and impactful expression of literary techniques and themes, and the format is well-suited for classroom analysis and discussion. In this guide, we will highlight some of the most important American literature short stories for high school students to read and discuss.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe is a master of the short story, and “The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of his most iconic works. The story tells the tale of a narrator who is driven to murder by the sound of his victim’s heart beating after death. The story is a showcase for Poe’s mastery of narrative voice and suspense, and it offers a chance for students to analyze how an unreliable narrator can impact a story’s meaning.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson subverts readers’ expectations of the traditional idyllic small town setting to tell a chilling story about a lottery that ends with a horrifying twist. The story is often used to examine the theme of hypocrisy and the dangers of blindly following tradition.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper” highlights the dark side of society’s ideas of femininity and mental health. The story is a first-person account of a woman who is driven insane by the treatment she receives during her postpartum confinement. The story addresses themes of identity, mental illness, and the negative effects of patriarchy.
Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
“Bartleby, the Scrivener” is a witty and thought-provoking commentary on the nature of work and individuality. The central character is a clerk who, when asked to do anything outside of his routine, responds with the phrase “I would prefer not to.” This catchphrase becomes a symbol for the power dynamics of the workplace and the role of the individual within society.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
This story, written by Civil War veteran and journalist Ambrose Bierce, tells the harrowing tale of a confederate soldier’s escape from execution. The story is known for its twist ending and likely leaves an impression on high school students regarding the harsh reality of war and the power of imagination.
These are just a few examples of the rich tradition of American literature short stories available to high school students. By reading and discussing these works with their peers, students can develop essential critical thinking skills and a greater appreciation for the power of storytelling.