General Questions for
Analysis and Evaluation of Short Stories
(from Perrine, Literature,
Structure, Sound, and Sense, Second Edition, pp.
- Who is the protagonist of the story?
What are the conflicts? Are they physical, intellectual,
moral, or emotional? Is the main conflict between sharply
differentiated good and evil, or is it more subtle and
- Does the plot have unity? Are all of the episodes
relevant to the total meaning or effect of the story? Does each incident grow
logically out of the preceding incident and lead naturally to the next? Is
the ending happy, unhappy, or indeterminate? Is it fairly achieved?
- What use does the story make of chance and
confidence? Are these occurrences used to initiate, to
complicate, or to resolve the story? How improbable
- How is suspense created in the
story? Is the interest confined to "What happens next?" or are
larger concerns involved? Can you find examples of mystery?
- What use does the story make of
surprise? Are the surprises achieved fairly? Do they serve
a significant purpose? Do they divert the reader's attention from
weakness in the story?
- To what extent is this a "formula"
- What means does the author use to reveal
- Are the characters consistent in their
actions? adequately motivated?
- Is each character fully enough
developed to justify his role in the story? Are the main
characters round or flat?
- Is any of the character a developed
character? If so, is his change a large or small one? Is it a
plausible change for him? Is it sufficiently motivated? Is it
given sufficient time?
- Does the story have a theme? What is
it? Is it implicit or explicit?
- Does the theme reinforce or oppose popular notions of
life? Does it furnish a new insight or refresh or deepen an old one?
POINT OF VIEW
- What point of view does the story
use? Is it consistent in its use of this point of view? If shifts
are made, are they justified?
- What advantages does the chosen point of view have? Does
it furnish any clues as to the purpose of the story?
- If the point of view is that of one of the
characters, does this character have any limitations that affect
his interpretation of events or persons?
- Does the author use point of view primarily to reveal
or conceal? Does he ever unfairly withhold important information from a character?
SYMBOL AND IRONY
- Does the story make use of symbols?
If so, do the symbols carry or merely reinforce the meaning of the
- Does the story anywhere utilize irony of
situation? dramatic irony? verbal irony? What functions do the
EMOTION AND HUMOR
- Does the story aim directly at an emotional
effect, or is emotion purely its natural by-product?
- Is the emotion sufficiently dramatized? Is the author
anywhere guilty of sentimentality?
- Does the story employ fantasy? If so, what
is the initial assumption? Does the story operate logically from
- Is the fantasy employed for its own sake?
Or to express human truth? If the latter, what truth?
- Is the primary interest of the story in
plot, character, theme, or some other element?
- What contribution to the story is made by
setting? Is the particular setting essential, or could the story
have happened anywhere?
- What are the characteristics of the
author's style? Are they appropriate to the nature of his
- What light is thrown on the story by its
- Do all elements of the story work together
to support a general purpose? Is any part irrelevant or
- What do you conceive to be the story's
central purpose? How fully has it achieved that
- Does the story offer chiefly escape or
interpretation? How significant is the story's
- Does the story gain or lose on a second