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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Short Stories Old and NewSelected and Edited by C. Alphonso SmithThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: Short Stories Old and NewAuthor: Selected and Edited by C. Alphonso SmithRelease Date: December 17, 2003 [EBook #10483]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-8859-1*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SHORT STORIES OLD AND NEW ***Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Shon McCarley and PG DistributedProofreadersSHORT STORIESOLD AND NEWSELECTED AND EDITEDBYC. ALPHONSO SMITHEDGAR ALLAN POE PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH IN THEUNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, AUTHOR OF"THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY," ETC.1916INTRODUCTION
Every short story has three parts, which may be called Setting orBackground, Plot or Plan, and Characters or Character. If you are goingto write a short story, as I hope you are, you will find it necessary tothink through these three parts so as to relate them interestingly andnaturally one to the other; and if you want to assimilate the best thatis in the following stories, you will do well to approach them by thesame three routes.The Setting or Background gives us the time and the place of the storywith such details of custom, scenery, and dialect as time and placeimply. It answers the questions _When? Where?_ The Plot tells us whathappened. It gives us the incidents and events, the haps or mishaps,that are interwoven to make up the warp and woof of the story. Sometimesthere is hardly any interweaving; just a plain plan or simple outline isfollowed, as in "The Christmas Carol" or "The Great Stone Face." We maystill call the core of these two stories the Plot, if we want to, butPlan would be the more accurate. This part of the story answers thequestion _What_? Under the heading Characters or Character we study thepersonalities of the men and women who move through the story and giveit unity and coherence. Sometimes, as in "The Christmas Carol" or"Markheim," one character so dominates the others that they are merespokes in his hub or incidents in his career. But in "The Gift of theMagi," though more space is given to Della, she and Jim act from thesame motive and contribute equally to the development of the story. Inone of our stories the main character is a dog, but he is so human thatwe may still say that the chief question to be answered under thisheading is _Who?_Many books have been written about these three parts of a short story,but the great lesson to be learned is that the excellence of a story,long or short, consists not in the separate excellence of the Setting orof the Plot or of the Characters but in the perfect blending of thethree to produce a single effect or to impress a single truth. If theSetting does not fit the Plot, if the Plot does not rise gracefully fromthe Setting, if the Characters do not move naturally andself-revealingly through both, the story is a failure. Emerson mightwell have had our three parts of the short story in mind when he wrote,All are needed by each one;Nothing is fair or good alone.CONTENTSINTRODUCTIONI. ESTHER, From the Old TestamentII. THE HISTORY OF ALI BABA AND THE FORTY ROBBERS, From "TheArabian Nights"III. RIP VAN WINKLE, By Washington IrvingIV. THE GOLD-BUG, By Edgar Allan Poe
V. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, By Charles DickensVI. THE GREAT STONE FACE, By Nathaniel HawthorneVII. RAB AND HIS FRIENDS, By Dr. John BrownVIII. THE OUTCASTS OF POKER FLAT, By Bret HarteIX. MARKHEIM, By Robert Louis StevensonX. THE NECKLACE, By Guy de MaupassantXI. THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, By Rudyard KiplingXII. THE GIFT OF THE MAGI, By O. HenrySHORT STORIESI. ESTHER[*][* From the Old Testament, Authorized Version.]AUTHOR UNKNOWN[_Setting_. The events take place in Susa, the capital of Persia, in thereign of Ahasuerus, or Xerxes (485-465 B.C.). This foreign localeintensifies the splendid Jewish patriotism that breathes through thestory from beginning to end. If the setting had been in Jerusalem,Esther could not have preached the noble doctrine, "When in Rome, don'tdo as Rome does, but be true to the old ideals of home and race."_Plot_. "Esther" seems to me the best-told story in the Bible. Observehow the note of empty Persian bigness versus simple Jewish faith isstruck at the very beginning and is echoed to the end. Thus, Ahasuerusruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, the opening banquetlasted one hundred and eighty-seven days, the king's bulletins were asunalterable as the tides, the gallows erected was eighty-three feethigh, the beds were of gold and silver upon a pavement of red and blueand white and black marble, the money wrested from the Jews was to beeighteen million dollars, etc. The word "banquet" occurs twenty times inthis short story and only twenty times in all the remaining thirty-eightbooks of the Old Testament. In other words, Ahasuerus and histrencher-mates ate and drank as much in five days as had been eaten anddrunk by all the other Old Testament characters from "Genesis" to"Malachi."Note also the contrast between the two queens, the two prime ministers,the two edicts, and the two later banquets. The most masterly part ofthe plot is the handling of events between these banquets. Read againfrom chapter v, beginning at verse 9, through chapter vi, and note how

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