Reading “A Very Short Story”

As we started discussing in class, there are a variety of critical approaches we can take towards this story. The four theories we’re focusing on this semester are historical, biographical, formalist, and reader’s response.

Your task is to choose one critical approach that can lead you to an interpretation (aka “a reading”) of the story and to publish it by commenting on this posting. Your reading should be about 1 paragraph long and should formulate its idea clearly (aka “thesis statement”) with your main supporting argument. Here are some very general suggestions, based on the theories:

  • Historical: How does the context of WWI provide insight on the story?
  • Biographical: What insight do details from Hemingway’s life provide on the story? For example, is the narrative as “objective” or neutral as it seems at first glance?
  • Formalist: What do word choices, literary techniques, and elements of narrative contribute to our understanding of the story?
  • Reader’s Response: What do your own life experiences contribute to how you understand the story or an aspect of the story? For example, have you ever had a long-distance relationship that failed? If so, do you notice any similarities?

You don’t need to aim for a huge interpretation that explains the whole story: you can focus on any aspect of the story that captured your attention that you feel may be insightful for readers of the story. And don’t worry if your posting doesn’t appear at once: I need to approve it before it appears (just the first time you comment on a posting).

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