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DEFINITION AND DEVELOPMENT
MANKIND has always loved to tell stories and to listen to them. The most primitive and unlettered peoples and tribes have always shown and still show this universal characteristic. As far back as written records go we find stories; even before that time, they were handed down from remote generations by oral tradition. The wandering minstrel followed a very ancient profession. Before him was his prototype the man with the gift of telling stories over the fire at night, perhaps at the mouth of a
The Greeks, who ever loved to hear some new thing, were merely typical of the ready listeners.
In the course of time the story passed through many forms and many phases — the myth, e.g. The Labors of Hercules ; the legend, e.g. St. George and the Dragon; the fairy tale, e.g. Cinderella ; the fable, e.g. The Fox and the Grapes ; the allegory, e.g. Addison's The Vision of Mirza ; the parable, e.g. The Prodigal Son. Sometimes it was merely to amuse, sometimes to instruct. With this process are intimately connected famous books, such as Gesta Romanorum” (which, by the way, has nothing to do with the Romans) and famous writers like Boccaccio.
Gradually there grew a body of rules and a technique, and men began to write about the way stories should be composed, as is seen in Aristotle's statement that a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Definitions were made and the elements named. In the fullness of time story-telling became an art.
Similar stories are to be found in many different literatures because human nature is fundamentally the same the world over; that is, people are swayed by the same mo. tives, such as love, hate, fear, and the like. Another reason for this similarity is the fact that nations borrowed stories from other nations, changing the names and circumstances. Writers of power took old and crude stories and made of them matchless tales which endure in their new form, e.g. Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter. Finally thể present day dawned and with it what we call the short-story.
The short-story - Prof. Brander Matthews has suggested the hyphen to differentiate it from the story which is merely short and to indicate that it is a new species 1 --- is a narrative which is short and has unity, compression, originality, and ingenuity, each in a high degree. The notion of shortness as used in this definition may be inexactly though easily grasped by considering the length of the average magazine story. Compression means that nothing must be included that can be left out. Clayton Hamilton expresses this idea by the convenient phrase economy
of means. By originality is meant something new in plot, point, outcome, or character. (See Introduc
1 The Philosophy of the Short-Story in Pen and Ink, page 72. (Longmans, Green & Co., 1888.)
2 Ibid. 3 Materials of Fiction, page 175. (Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912.)
tion III for a discussion of these terms.) Ingenuity sug. ġests cleverness in handling the theme. The short-story
also is impressionistic because it leaves to the reader the i reconstruction from hints of much of the setting and details.
Mr. Hamilton has also constructed another useful definition. He says: “The aim of a short-story is to produce a single narrative effect with the greatest economy of means that is consistent with the utmost emphasis.” 1
However, years before, in 1842, in his celebrated review of Hawthorne's Tales 2 Edgar Allan Poe had laid down the same theory, in which he emphasizes what he elsewhere calls, after Schlegel, the unity or totality of interest, i.e. unity of impression, effect, and economy. Stevenson, too, has written critically of the short-story, laying stress on this essential unity, pointing out how each effect leads to the next, and how the end is part of the beginning.3
America may justly lay claim to this new species of short narrative. Beginning in the early part of the nineteenth century there had begun to appear in this country stories showing variations from the English type of story which “ still bore upon it marks of its origin; it was either a hard, formal, didactic treatise, derived from the moral apologue or fable ; òr it was a sentimental love-tale derived from the artificial love-romance that followed the romance of chivalry."" The first one to stand out prominently is Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, which was published in 1820. This story, while more leisurely and less
1 Materials of Fiction, page 173. (Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912.)
Krappa Irving's Tales of a Travelier, etc. Iutroduction. (Scott, i sinan & Co.)
condensed than the complet developed form of the short-story, had the important ment of humor, a well as freshness, grace, and restrai: thing being said it should not be said.
The next writer in the order of development is Edgar Allan Poe, Whose Berenice appeared in 1835. With it the short-story took definite form. Poe's contribution is structure and technique; that is, he definitely introduced the characteristics noted in the definition — unity, compression, originality, and ingenuity. With almost mathematical precision he sets out to obtain an effect. To quote from his before-mentioned review of Hawthorne his own words which are so definite as almost to compose a formula of his way of writing a short-story and are so thoughtful as to be nearly the summary of any discussion of the subject : “A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents -- he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step.. In the whole composition there should be no word written of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one preëstablished design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been presented unblemished because undisturbed ;
all this is an end mattainable by th novel.” It istok? } notext hat Poe roused interest in his eifert by the method
susi ense, sat is hy kolding back: the solurion of the
plot, by puiting off telling what the reader wants to know, though he continually aggravates the desire to know by iconstant hints, the full significance of which is only realized when the story is done. His stories are of two main classes : what have been called stories of 'Cimpressionisties terror,” that is, stories of great fear induced in a character by a mass of rather vague and unusual incidents, such as The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1843); and stories of '(ratiocination that is, of the ingenious thinking out of a problem, as The Mystery of Marie Roget (1843). In the latter type he is the originator of the detective story.
The writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne exhibit the next stage of development. While lacking some of the technical excellence of Poe by often not knowing how to begin or how to end a story, by sacrificing economy or compression, yet he presented something new in making a story of situation, that is, by putting a character in certain circumstances and working out the results, as The Birthmark (1843). His stories also fall into two groups, the imaginative, like Howe's Masquerade (1838), and the moralizing introspective, or, as they have been called, the
umoral-philosophic" that is, stories which look within the human mind and soul and deal with great questions of conduct, such as The Ambitious Guest (1837). Hawthorne was the descendant of Puritans, men given to serious thought and sternly religious. It is this strain of his inheritance which is evidenced in the second group. In all his writing there is some outward symbol of the circumstances or the state of mind. It is seen, for example, in The Minister's Black Veil (1835).
In 1868 was published Luck of Roaring Camp, by Bret Harte. In this story and those that immediately followed,