ENG200.002 -- Introduction to Literary Study

Prof. Eileen Joy

Spring 2010

SHORT PAPER #4: Story Analysis

Figure 1. The Enigma Machine

In an interview with The Paris Review, Amy Hempel said that stories should not necessarily explain anything. Another way of putting this might be to say that stories should not necessarily give us (or even their characters) resolutions or solutions, or spell out somehow what the story means. Further, Hempel said that when she teaches fiction writing she tells her students, "I not only don't want the explanation, I want the mystery."

For this assignment, I want you to choose either Amy Hempel's novella Tumble Home or one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short stories from Collected Stories, and explain what you see as the central mystery, or mysteries, of the piece. And then, select certain scenes and/or passages that you feel are particularly powerful at conveying a sense of mystery in the story, and explain in some detail how you see these scenes and/or passages (which might be about setting, mood/tone, a particular character or characters, point-of-view, plot details, etc.) as being especially important for conveying mystery. Finally, do you find the mystery, or mysteries, of this story compelling as a reader, and why or why not? What might be good (or not) about leaving things open-ended and unresolved at the end of a story?

Give me 2-3 double-spaced & typed pages. Include as many specific details as possible from the story, being sure to include direct quotations where they help to illustrate specific observations and points you want to make. Demonstrate that, whatever ideas you have, you have paid close attention to the text itself.