Frank O’Connor’s claimed that short stories look at isolated individuals who undergo a frontier experience. They represent outsiders in society and are essentially about human loneliness and isolation. In this essay I will look at three different short stories in order to evaluate the importance and usefulness of his statement. The stories I will examine are ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ by Roald Dahl, The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant and The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy.
Short stories just like in the novels always shows us how people respond to life however the method is more limited and we get to know the character trough a dramatic incident or by looking at fleeting moments of their lives from which we might gain some impressions which changes at the end of the story, raise questions about the character and leaves us with unanswered motivations and solutions. Short stories arouse our curiosity and provoke emotions.
Say what A Frontier Experience is Each character in the three stories I have chosen goes through a frontier experience which involves them coming up to a new situation and changing from one state to another. In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ we are introduced to a typical American household routine with a working husband and his staying at home wife taking care of him and their house. Then suddenly everything changed for the main character, one reaction and finally murder. We change our opinion about the characters and are left with unanswered questions. We observe the drastically changed story and characters.
We can assume the reasons of what happened and analyse the foreshadows author used in the beginning of the story we haven’t notice before but we will never get an answer from the author as it is one of the elements of short stories. Similarly in ‘The Necklace’ we meet a woman whose life is ruined after losing an expensive as she believes necklace that she borrowed from her friend. In fear of telling her friend the true the woman and her husband borrow money to replace the jewel and work hard for ten years in order to repay a debt.
After ten difficult years we find out the necklace wasn’t worth anything as it was an imitation. We observe the woman changing her life and attitudes for ten years just to repay a jewel she believed so precious. We are again left with questions of what would have happened if she would admit to her friend the loss of the necklace and what happens next after the truth was reviled. How did the situation changed the character and their lives is leaving us with sympathy for her but we also realize she changed in better even though we are sorry for her and her husband.
In ‘The Withered Arm’ we are surprised at the end as short stories often do but it is more powerful than the standard endings. It is very moving and makes us rethink about whole story. We find out the person being hanged at the execution is Rhoda’s and farmers son and his young wife is there to cure her arm by touching his neck at the execution. We remain with sad feelings and sympathy for a poor boy that was always by himself, uncured by his parents and now his innocent death was supposed to be a cure for his father’s new wife.
All three stories even though different are describing characters who undergo the ‘frontier experience’. There are five basic elements of a short story which are plot, characters, point of view, setting and theme. Many critics set as a minimum number just three based on Aristotle’s beginning, middle and end Explore the idea of The Outsider and what experience they go through. Desiree’s Baby … how many characters went through frontier experience? For this essay you need to look at how the characters conform following The Frontier Experience and how they don’t.