The Short Story: An Introduction

By Paul March-Russell | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Riddles, Hoaxes and

The art-tale, which prospered throughout the nineteenth century, was an important bridge between the folktale and the short story. Its immediate and accessible form allowed writers to comment upon the attitudes and organisation of modern society. The role of magic, in particular, gave writers the opportunity of imagining different kinds of relationship, especially different ways of feeling and perceiving reality. If earlier fairy tales tended to be one-dimensional, for example the moral didacticism of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, then the art-tale tended to be multi-layered and ambiguous. Washington Irving's 'Rip Van Winkle' (1819), for instance, can be read either as a demand not to sleep through one's life, as Rip does, and thereby miss the chance of personal and political freedom, or as a critique of the post-revolutionary settlement, in which Rip's laziness embodies a spirit of individualism that contrasts with the political fervour and crowd mentality of the new Republic. Either response can be supported by a reading of the text, an interpretative split which is precipitated by the draught that sends Rip into his twenty-year sleep, and which argues for the new American democracy to be composed of disputatious voices rather than a monotone.

The ambiguity of the art-tale, though, echoes a much earlier form of wordplay: the riddle. The interruption of lifelike scenarios by magical or uncanny events, for example in the stories of Nikolai Gogol and J. P. Hebel, casts the reader's recognition into doubt. Readers are presented with an intriguing puzzle so that the art-tale can be regarded as a riddle concealed within a narrative. Riddle stories were widespread throughout the nineteenth century. Two very popular examples in America were Thomas Bailey Aldrich's 'Marjorie Daw' (1873) and Frank R. Stockton's 'The Lady, or the Tiger' (1882). Both stories deliberately withhold information; in Stockton's case, he suspends the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Short Story: An Introduction


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 294

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?