The Short Story: An Introduction

By Paul March-Russell | Go to book overview
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Localities: Centres and

As the previous chapter argued, the short story portrays human identity as a subject in process, so that characterisation tends towards only partial realisation. For the protagonists of short story cycles, such as Julia Alvarez's How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street (1984), part of this process involves a quest for origins. Although the short story has effectively described the experience of city-life (see the next chapter), it has also had a special role in depicting communities left behind by the movement towards urbanisation and industrialisation. Texts such as Ivan Turgenev's Sketches from a Hunter's Album (1852) and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (1919) are iconic in this sense, but this chapter will extend the discussion to include writers that predate these authors as well as contemporary writers working against the backdrop of globalisation. Of particular note is that the search for authenticity implicated in the hunt for origins is always tentative and provisional, since the pursuit of origination is refracted through accumulated experience, historical ties that become more complex in periods of intense economic and cultural change.

Village Voices

The effects of land reform and the early Industrial Revolution encouraged Romantic writers to find a new pastoral style that described the lives and language of working men and women. In poems such as 'Michael' (1800) and 'The Ruined Cottage' (1797–8), William Wordsworth dramatised the depopulation of the English countryside. At the same time, in her posthumous novel Northanger Abbey (1818), Jane Austen evoked a vision of Middle England where 'murder was not tolerated, servants were not slaves, and neither poison nor sleeping


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