Dialogue Dialogue refers to the conversation between or among characters. Dialogue can indicate the relation-
ship between characters, revealing whether iluy are in conflict or in agreement. Thus, a character's words can
convey ideas or information important to the story's plot, character development, or tone. However, what
characters say is not necessarily true. Sometimes characters can say things that they don't mean. For exam-
ple, they may want tо conceal the truth or mislead someone.
Literary dialogue does not usually sound like real-life conversation because, even when the author
uses dialect, the normal pauses, repetitions, and interruptions of daily talk are omitted.
M ONOLOGUE Monologueis a speech by one character. This brief or extended speech canreveal the character's feel-
ings, often previously hidden from the other characters, and can communicate information to other characters
and/or to the readers.
D IALECT Dialectshows the region from which the speaker comes. The dialect may differ from standard literary
English in its pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary (see, for example, "The Man Who Was Almost a
Man" by Richard Wright, pp. 103-12).
I NDIRECT SPEECH Sometimes authors do not present conversation directly but rather through indirect speech. That is, the
conversation is not presented within quotation marks but is revealed through narration or through a charac-
ter‘s thoughts. For example, instead of having a character say "Iwant to be alone,"an author can write, She told her husband that she -wanted to be alone. ACTIVITY: Recordi ng and m ani pul at i ng di al ogue _ Listen to a conversation between two people you know. (Note: Be sure to obtain permission from both
people to do this activity.)
• Tape record or copy down what they say in a few minutes, including every "urn," "you know," and
• Then turn the talk into literary dialogue: omit the repetitions, hesitations, and interruptions. Try to re-
tain the essence of the conversation.
• Put each person's contribution to the conversation on a different line, to clarifywho is speaking (see
p. 326 for instructions on quoting dialogue).
Discuss with your classmates the differences between everyday conversation and literary dialogue.
ACTIVITY: Turni ng sp oken l ang uage i nt o i n di rect speech Summarize the literary dialogue you created in the previous activity by turning it into indirect speech.
In other words, rewrite the conversation without direct quotations.
ACTIVITY:_Exam_i_ni_ng_speech_i_n_a_st_ory__'>ACTIVITY: Exam i ni ng speech i n a st ory _ Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to the following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Is there any dialogue in the story? If so,what does it reveal about the plot,
characters, and/or tone? Is there a monologue in the story? If so, what does it reveal about the character who
is speaking? Is there indirect speech in the story (that is, is any conversation summarized rather than pre-
sented withinquotation marks)? If so, does it provide clues to meaning?
Structure A traditional story has a predictable structure:the plot moves in a direct line from start to finish, from
the beginning through the middle to the end. In the beginning of such a story, the author introduces the set-
ting, the characters, and the conflict. In the middle, theconflict intensifies to a crisis. In the end the conflict is
resolved (one of the forces wins out). In manystories, however, the structureis not predictable. For example theauthor may usethe technique
of f l ashback) switching in time by going back to the past to provide background to character or events.
The author may move back and forth between past and present or project into the future.The author may start
at the end rather than at the beginning. The story may not even have an identifiable beginning, middle, and
end. The conflict may not be resolved.
The structure, whether predictable or unpredictable, may be designed to produce a specific reaction in
a reader. For example, if the structure is predictable (with everything in order), the reader may feel asense of
security; if unpredictable (with things in unexpected places), the reader mayfeel a sense of suspense. The
structure may also reflect whatthe characters are feeling. For example, a predictable structure (with every-
thing the wayit should be) could reflect a character's sense of peace; an unpredictable structure (with things
out of place) could reflect a character's confusion or anger orlack of control.
ACTIVITY_:___Foreshadowing'>ACTIVITY:_St_art_i_ng_at_t_he_end'>ACTIVITY: St art i ng at t he end Read through several newspaper articles to discover reports on violent crimes. Then pick a crime—for
example, a murder—and describe the crime, making your description of the crime the first paragraph of a
short story you plan to write. Discuss with your classmates what the rest of your story might tell.
ACTIVITY : Examining the structure o f a story Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to ihr following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Is the Miuctiire of the story predictable, moving in a direct line from start
to finch, or is the structure unpredictable? (Does the story have a recognizable beginning, middle, and end?)
Is the structure of the story connected to the plot or character development or tone of the story? Does the
structure provide clues to meaning?
Foreshadowing Foreshadowing is a technique used by authors to hint at or suggest what isgoing to happen. For exam-
ple, authors may hint at the beginning of the story what will happen in the middle. Or they may hint in the
middle what will happen in theend. The hints may lie in descriptions of the events, the setting, or the cha-
racters; or they may lie in thoughts, dreams, conversations, and so on.
Foreshadowing often adds suspense to a story, creating in readers a feeling of fear or excitement. You
may not recognize foreshadowing until you finish a story and then read it again.
ACTIVITY : Foreshadowing Imagine that you are going to write a short story that ends with the description of the crime you wrote
about in the activity called "Starting at the end" (pp. 36-37). Create a first paragraph of the short story in
which you describe a setting or characters. In that first paragraph, give some hint of what will happen later in
ACTIVITY : Searching for foreshadowing in a story Working in a small group or with the whole class, search for answers to the following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Are there any hints, at various stages in the story, about what will happen?
If so, how do these hints affect your reaction to or understanding of the story?
RESEARCHING ELEMENTS OUTSIDE A STORY Sometimes information about history, literature, and biography, which exists outside the story, can aid
in an analysis of a story. You may learn this information from class discussions or lectures, from library re-
search or other outside reading, or from biographical and background material included in this book.
Of course, this outside information is useful only if you know it, and only if it relates directly to the
story. For most of the stories in this book, it is not necessary for you to know this information to achieve an
understanding. Virtually all of your analysis can be based on elements within the story.
Pl acem ent i n H i st ory Knowing the historical period in which a story is set can shed some light on the story.
For example, knowing about women's limited rights in the United States in the nineteenth century may
help you understand why Louise Mallard, the main character of "The Story of an Hour," reacts as she does
after she is told that her husband has died.
Pl acem ent i n Li t erat ure Knowing how a short story compares to other short stories or other works of literature can help you to
understand its effectiveness.
For example, knowing that Kate Chopin was one of the first American female writers who dared to re-
veal women's inner emotions may enable you to admire "The Story of an Hour" for its honesty.
Li nk t o Bi ography Knowing something about the author's life or other literary works can help you understand the signi-
ficance of certain elements of a story.
For example, knowing that Kate Chopin's husband died when she was only thirty years old may cause
you to believe in the validity of her main character's response to death.
DISCOVERING THEMES A theme is a truth that a story reveals. Through the creation of a fictional world, authors reveal what
they believe to be true about the real world.
A theme is rarely directly stated by the author. Instead, the reader discovers themes, inferring meaning
from the details in the story. Usually themes deal with general areas of human experience, for example: the
nature of humanity or society, the relationship of human beings to the environment, or the question of ethical
It may help to understand what a theme is by learning what it is not.
Them e versus Subj ect A theme is not a subject. A subjectis what the 5tcry reveals what the story says about the subject. For
example, one subject of "The Story of an Hour" is a woman's response to her husband's death. A theme
would reveal the author's view about the woman's response.
Theme versus Topic A theme is not a topic. A topic is what an essay is about. A theme revealsa truth about the topic. For
example, if you were to write an essay about "The Story of an Hour," your topic might be "love and mar-
riage." A theme would provide the author's ideas about love and marriage.
Theme versus Moral A theme is not a moral. A moral is a statement or lesson that teaches right and wrong behavior. A
theme reveals how people behave (without telling people how to behave). For example, a story with a moral
might teach a 1esson such as "Don't do anything immoral," "Never tell a lie," or "Practice what you preach."
A story with a theme would not so directly preach a lesson but would instead create characters to examine
their behavior and motivation, to try to understand why human beings are the way they are.
It is easier to understand the difference between theme and moral if you read a story with a moral. In
the following fable (animal tale), there is a clear statement of the moral at the end.
The Ant a nd t he Gras shopper Aesop Aesop, a Greek slave, was probably born about 620 B.C.E. in the ancient Asian country of Phrygia. Al- though Aesop bad no formal education, be knew a great deal about human behavior. He became well known for his ability to weave wonderful tales about animals who spoke and acted just like people. In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's con-
tent. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear o f corn he was taking to the nest.
"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."
"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "we have got plenty of food at present." But the
Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found it-
self dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had col-
lected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity. The moral of this story is prominently stated at the end, in italics, idling people how to behave to avoid
disaster. None of the short-story, writers in this book explicitly states a moral as Aesop does. Instead, each
story reveals a theme or several themes. Since themes are not clearly stated by the author, you uncover them
through a complex reading and thinking process. This process includes examining the "facts" the author pro-
vides (plot, setting, character) and the literary devices the author uses (for example, point of view, symbol-
ism, foreshadowing, irony). By piecing together some or all of the elements of fiction, you can discover
theme(s) that the details of the story reveal.
ACTIVITY : Discovering a theme_ Reread the fable by Aesop (p. 39), this time covering up the last line. Then, instead of finding a moral
to the story, find a theme or several themes. In other words, decide what Aesop reveals about how people be-
Student Readers at Work "The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8) is a story that reveals a number of themes. Some of the themes that
students have discovered are presented below.
1. Chopin presents life as a series of unexpected events, which may be taken both positively and nega-
2. It is in human nature to seek freedom.
3. Chopin suggests that the role of women in the family and society should be changed. However, Cho-
pin also accepts the fact that there are limits to these changes.
4. Human striving for freedom is futile. Only in nature can freedom exist.
5. Chopin shows that the only way that women can achieve freedom, which is acquiring self-
assertion, is through death.
ACTIVITY : Analyzing themes__ Read the above statements of theme that students discovered in "Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8). Pick out
details from the story you think may have led the students to their discoveries. If you disagree with their
statements, explain why.
Activity: Discovering a theme__ Working in a small group or with the whole class, read the story "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid (pp. 150-
51) or another very short story in Part Two, such us Luisa Valenzuela's "The Verb to Kill" (pp. 147-49).
Go through the list of elements of fiction below (see expanded discussion on pp. 23-37), and apply the
questions to the story. While or after you go through the applicable categories, discuss the story as a whole to
discover a theme or several themes. Allow for different interpretations.
• Plot:What is happening? What is the main conflict? • Setting:Where does the story take place? Over what period of time?What do the physical details re-
veal about the society or the characters? • Character: Who is the story about? Does the central character have choices or undergo changes?
How do the choices or changes (or lack of choice or change) contribute to your understanding of the
• Point of view:Who is narrating the story? How would the story be different if the narrator were dif-
• Imagery: What are the dominant images? Are they connected to any feelings or states of mind?
• Symbolism: Might any events or objects represent abstract ideas?
• Tone: What is the author's attitude toward character, event, or subject matter?
• Irony: Is there incongruity between what the characters think is true and what is actually true? If so,
how does irony contribute to your understanding of the story?
• Speech: What does the dialogue, monologue, or indirect speech reveal about plot or character?
• Structure: What might the story's structure reveal about the plot or character development?
• Foreshadowing: Are there hints in the beginning or the middle as to what will happen at the end?
Questions for Analysis and Evaluation 1. How is the setting in the text under discussion specified? When and where is the action take place? What
particular words describe the setting?
2. What is the central idea of the passage? How is it brought to the reader - explicitly or implicitly? Turn to
the text to motivate your answer.
3. Who is the main character? Do we hear his voice? Are there instances of his inner reported speech?
4. What narrative method is employed in the text?
5. What logically completed parts does the text fall into? Find the key idea in each of the parts. Entitle them.
6. How does the author create the atmosphere in the story? What syntactical and lexical means does he
resort to? Comment upon the specific quality of the vocabulary of the description (formal and literary
words, negative prefixes) and syntax (the use of -ing forms, complex and compound sentences with sev-
eral homogeneous members). What is the effect of prefixed words and epithets?
7. Speak about the effect of italicized words, suspension points, exclamation marks.
8. Speak about the specific mixture of formal and colloquial vocabulary in the talk. Give examples from the
text, comment on the effect produced.
9. What is the expressive value of the cases of simile (``like a plaque or an earthquake''), numerous epithets,
antonomasia, hyperbole and other imagery stylistic means?
10. What is the narrative method of the story? What lexical and syntactical peculiarities emphasize the central
idea of the passage?
11. What is the general tone of the story? How does the author succeed in conveying this tone? Are there any
key-words (phrases, sentences) that serve to render the message?
14. What emotions does the text arouse in you?
SELECTED STORIES FOR THE TEXT ANALYSIS Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros (1954- ), the only daughter in a family of seven children, was
born in Chicago. Her Mexican-American heritage, of which she is proud, is evident in
many of her short stories. Cisneros has had a successful and varied career. In addition
to being a poet and fiction writer, she has worked as an arts administrator and has
taught students who had dropped out of high school. She has written four books of
poetry and two books of short stories, The House on Mango Street and Woman Hol- lering Creek. In many of her short stories, such as "Eleven," Cisneros creates a view
of the world through the eyes of a child. The language of these stories is simple and
direct, but their ideas are serious and important.
Eleven What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven,
you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And
when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes
and everything's just like yesterday, only its today. And you don't feel eleven at all. You feel like you're still
ten. And you are - underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten. Or maybe
some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared, and that's the part of you that's
five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's
okay. That's what I tell Mama when she's sad and needs to cry. Maybe she's feeling three.
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my
little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That's how being eleven years
You don't feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before
you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don't feel smart eleven, not until you‘re almost twelve. That's
the way it is. Only today I wish I didn't have only eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box.
Today I wish I was one hundred and two instead of eleven because if I was one hundred and two I'd have
known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red sweater on my
desk. I would've known how to tell her it wasn't mine instead of
just sitting there with that look on my face and nothing coming
out or my mouth.
"Of course it's yours," Mrs. Price says. "Whose is this?" Mrs. Price says, and she holds the red
sweater up in the air for all the class to see. "Whose? It's been sit-
ting in the coatroom for a month."
"Not mine," says everybody. "Not me.‖
"It has to belong to somebody," Mrs. Price keeps saying, but
nobody can remember. Its m ugly sweater with red plastic buttons and a collar and sleeves all stretched out
like you could use it for a jump rope. Its maybe a thousand years old and even if it belonged to me I wouldn't
Maybe because I'm skinny, maybe because she doesn't like me, that stupid Sylvia Saldivar says, "I
think it belongs to Rachel." An ugly sweater like that, all raggedy and old, but Mrs. Price believes her. Mrs.
Price takes the sweater and puts it right on my desk, but when I open my mouth nothing comes out.
"That's not, I don't, you're not... so Not mine," I finally say in a little voice that was maybe me when I
"Of course Its yours," Mrs. Price says. "I remember you wearing it once." Because she's older and the
teacher, she's right and I'm not.
Not mine, not mine, not mine, but Mrs. Price is already turning to page thirty-two, and math problem
number four. I don't know why but all of a sudden I'm feeling sick inside, like the part of me that's three
wants to come out of my eyes, only I squeeze them shut * tight and bite down on my teeth real hard and try
to remember today I am eleven, eleven. Mama is making a cake for me for tonight, and when Papa comes
home everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you.
But when the sick feeling goes away and I open my eyes, the red sweater's still sitting there like a big
red mountain. I move the red sweater to the corner of my desk with my ruler. I move my pencil and books
and eraser as far from it as possible. I even move my chair a little to the tight. Not mine, not mine, not mine.
In my head I'm thinking how long till lunchtime, how long till I can take the red sweater and throw it
over the schoolyard fence, or leave it hanging
on a parking meter, or bunch it up into a little ball and toss it in the alley. Except when math period
ends Mrs. Price says loud and in front of everybody, "Now, Rachel, that's enough," because she sees I've
shoved the red sweater to the tippy-tip corner of my desk and it's hanging all over the edge like a waterfall,
but I don't care.
"Rachel," Mrs. Price says. She says it like she's getting mad. "You put chat sweater on right now and
no more nonsense."
"But it‘s not —"
"Now!" Mrs. Price says.
This is when I wish I wasn't eleven, because all the years inside of me - ten, nine, eight, seven, six,
five, four, three, us two, and one - are pushing at the back of my eyes when I put one arm through one
sleeve of the sweater that smells like cottage cheese, and then the other arm through the other and stand there
with my arms apart like if the sweater hurts me and it does, all itchy and full of germs that aren't even mine.
That‘s when everything I've been holding in since this morning, since when Mrs. Price put the sweater
on my desk, finally let‘s go, and all or a sudden I'm crying in front of everybody, I wish I was invisible but
I'm not. I'm eleven and it‘s my birthday today and I'm crying like I'm three in front of everybody. I put my
head down on the desk and bury my face in my stupid clown-sweater arms. My face all hot and spit coming
out of my mouth because I can't stop the little animal I noises from coming out of me, until there aren't any
more tears left in my eyes, and it‘s just my body shaking like when you have the hiccups, and my whole head
hurts like when you drink milk too fast.
But the worst part is right before the hell rings for lunch. That stupid Phyllis Lopez, who is even
dumber than Sylvia Saldivar, says she remembers the red ids sweater is hers! I take it off right away and give
it to her, only Mrs. Price pretends like everything's OK.
Today I'm eleven. There's a cake Mama's making for tonight, and when Papa comes home from work
we'll eat it. There'll be candles and presents and everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you,
Rachel, only it's too late.
I'm eleventoday. I'm eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one, but I wish I was
one hundred and two. I wish I was anything but eleven, because I want today to be far away already, far
away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny- tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.