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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mystery Short Stories Essay

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There are numerous genres of short stories that are read throughout the world. One specific type of short story that continues to intrigue readers’ minds is that of mystery. Mysteries are captivating and entertaining stories that make the mind work in a unique and creative way. Plot twists occur throughout, ensuring that the readers’ full attention if he or she wants to solve the mystery. Mysteries all contain key elements that are essential in characterizing them as a mystery settings found in these short stories are crucial, as they enable, the reader to picture exactly where the events of the work are taking place. Symbolism or animal imagery is necessary in mystery short stories, as it adds to the description of the happenings in the plot. Characterization aids the reader in picturing how the characters appear and helps display their character traits, explaining why they act in a certain manner. The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century are defined as mystery stories because they posses the key elements of a mystery, setting, symbolism and animal imagery, and characterization.


The setting is indispensable in the creating of a mystery story because it gives a clear description of the environment of the story. The setting allows the reader to feel involved in the story and think of what it must be like to be present in the place where the events partake. In Paul’s Case by Willa Carter, a vivid description of Paul’s house was given which made visualizing this setting relatively easy.


“The nearer he approached the house, the more absolutely unequal Paul felt to the sight of it all; his ugly sleeping chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked mirror, the dripping spigots.” (Hillerman 1)


In An Error in Chemistry by William Faulkner, a well writing description of Joel Flint’s old workplace is given.


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“A lighted booth where a roulette wheel spun against a bank of nickel-plated pistols and razors and watches and harmonicas, in a traveling carnival.” (Hillerman 1)


In The Murder by John Steinback, grand description of the scenery of the Canon del Castillo was given.


“From the main Canon del Castillo a number of little arroyos cut back into the mountains, oak-wooded canyons, heavily brushed with poison oak and sage. At the head of the canyon there stands a tremendous stone castle, buttressed and towered.’ (Hillerman 1)


A well done setting is a very important asset to a short story, especially when symbolism and animal imagery is used when describing certain parts of the setting.





Symbolism and animal imagery make understanding the events easier, as they give a new and unique description of the proceedings of the plot, which makes visualizations of the story effortless. It helps the reader to picture something that is easier to imagine, which in turn makes visualizing the story relatively simple. The Comforts of Home by Flannery O’Connor uses a simile to allow us to understand how loud the telephone seemed to ring.


“Two nights later, his mother and he were sitting in the den after their supper, each reading a section of the evening paper, when the telephone began to ring with the brassy intensity of a fire alarm.” (Hillerman 48)


In Paul’s Case, Paul wears a red carnation on his shirt when he goes to meet with his teachers, which is a sign of his outlandish attiude.


“His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower, and they fell upon him without mercy.” (Hillerman )


In The Murder, animal imagery is used when describing Jelka, Jim, the protagonist’s wife.


“Jelka had eyes as large and questioning as a doe’s eyes. Her nose was thin and sharply faceted and her lips were deep and soft.” (Hillerman 14)


Symbolism is a key element found within all short stories, and they are extremely important when developing the characters of the story.


Characterization is essential to ensure the reader can picture and understand both the appearances and attitudes of the protagonist of the story. A well-developed character is the key, essential part in relating the reader to the character of the story. In The Couple Next Door by Margaret Millar, a vivid description of Mrs. Rackham was given which aided in picturing how the lady must have looked when she was in pain and was suffering.


“Her fair skin was blotched with patches of red, like strawberry birthmarks, and her eyelids were blistered from the hear of her tears.” (Hillerman 444)


In An Error in Chemistry, a very in-depth description of Old Man Pritchel was given which helped the reader to picture his appearance.


“A face rigid, furious, glaring at them through the glass for a second and then withdrawn, vanished, leaving an impression of furious exultation and raging triumph.” (Hillerman 1)


A rather clear description of Paul’s appearance was given in Paul’s Case that allowed the reader to visualize how this story’s protagonist must have looked.


“Paul was tall for his age and very thin, with high, cramped shoulders and a narrow chest. His eyes were remarkable for a certain hysterical brilliancy.” (Hillerman 8)


The development of the characters, but most importantly, the protagonist, is the most essential of a mystery short story.


The tales found within’ the book, The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, are extremely high quality mysteries because they all contain the key elements of setting, symbolism and animal imagery, and characterization which are vital to a mystery story. Setting is used in a mystery to set mood and create atmosphere, which helps develop the plot. Symbolism is an asset used in a mystery short story to give a better description of the events by creating an example many people can relate with. Characterization is the most important element that a mystery can possess because a well described protagonist allows the story to be entertaining and easy to follow. High quality mystery stories all possess the elements of setting, symbolism, and characterization in order to be a great mystery story.





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