1. The short story genre. The theme.
2. The message.
3. Tonal system.
4. The plot and its structure.
5. System of images. The means of characterization.
1. A short story is traditionally understood as a short story narrative in prose. Its literary classical definition presents a short story as a relatively brief prose narrative, usually characterized by uniformity of tone and dramatic intensity, and having as plot a single action. A popular form of a story is one that tells events with a definite beginning, middle and end. But others may have very little plot and may never have moved to a completed action.
A short story usually contains one event focusing on a single aspect of life. The number of characters is limited but they are rather revealed and developed. The story may belong to a particular type: social, psychological, historical, adventure, detective, science-fiction, documentary or be the mixture of a number of the types.
Note. Why story? We deal with the short prose form of fiction, the short story, because of two reasons:
a) in the short story the linguistic and literary devices are expressively more loaded than in the long form of writing, the novel;
b) because of its length the short story abounds in implicit information.
A literary work is an artistic whole which is created by the interaction of all its elements: the characters, setting, plot, plot structure, language, literary techniques, etc.
The basic problem represented in the story is the theme. The theme is the main area of interest treated in the story. It is the represented aspect of life which the story illustrates.
As literary works commonly have human characters for their subject of depiction the theme may be understood as an interaction of human characters under certain circumstances (the theme of love or love for one’s Motherland; the theme of family relations, war and peace; a clash of cultures; discrimination of any kind, etc.)
Within a single narrative the basic theme may alternate with rival themes and their relationship may be complex. All the themes are linked together to represent a unity, the essential characteristic of a literary creation.
Thus the theme of the story implies the problem which the writer raises. His view and attitude to this problem is revealed in the way he develops the theme of the story.
2. The most important idea that the author expresses in the process of developing the theme is the message of the story. The theme is therefore organically connected with the author’s message.
The message is generally expressed implicitly, i.e. indirectly, and has a complex analytical character, being created by the interaction of numerous implications which the different elements of the literary work have.
Implication is the suggestion that is not expressed directly but understood. Implication may be conveyed by different techniques, such as
a) parallelism (parallel actions of the dream and reality),
b) contrast (e.g. the antithetical thematic planes of the vocabulary; this implication can also be suggested by the antithesis in the title Arrangement in Black and White),
c) recurrence of events or situations (repetition of key words in the text important for the understanding of the message of the story),
d) artistic details which stimulate the reader’s imagination and serve to add something new about a character, or place, or event. E.g. feet and hands with “fingers worked to the bone” in J. Priestley’s Angel Pavement create the image of a woman exhausted by a life full of hardships),
e) symbols. When the artistic detail is repeated several times and associated with a broader concept than the original, it develops into a symbol. It is a metaphoric expression of the concept it stands for. Symbols may be traditional and personal. An example of a traditional symbol is a rose. The rose is a traditional symbol of beauty. Personal symbols are established by means of repetition, repeated association with a broader concept.