This section contains 3,478 words
(approx. 9 pages at 400 words per page)
American Short Story Masterpieces Summary & Study Guide Description
American Short Story Masterpieces Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Sonny's Brother, appears in Sonny's Blues
Sonny's brother is a kind, loving man who teaches at a local school. He has not spoken to his brother in many years, as they had a falling out over his brother's drug use. When Sonny's brother's daughter dies, the brother finally contacts Sonny, and the two rekindle their relationship. The brother has difficulty understanding Sonny, because he himself has not led the life of his brother. The brother was assimilated into white culture early on and tries to combat racism and poverty through education; whereas, Sonny has spent his life trying to escape it through drugs. In the end, the brother is able to relate to Sonny's troubles by watching him struggle through his music to remain free.
Sonny, appears in Sonny's Blues
Sonny is a young black man with a troubled past. As a younger man, his father and he fought often. When his father died, he began hanging out with the wrong crowd. When his mother also died, he was sent to live with his brother's wife's family. He became highly interested in music but soon began using drugs. He flees into the Navy to escape but on his return ends up where he started. He is finally arrested for selling drugs and sent to prison. On his release, he struggles to find himself without drugs and to be able to play his music without being on anything. He shares his struggle with his brother, who helps him to succeed.
Lenore, appears in Weekend
In "Weekend," Lenore is a quiet, easy going housewife with two children. Her partner, George, is an alcoholic ex-professor who likes spending time with his previous female students. He is gentle and kind to Lenore but tells others she is simple. He also does not wish to divorce her. Lenore is fine with this arrangement, and when she begins to worry, she simply forces herself to forget the situation. She is, at least subconsciously, aware George is having affairs with his young students but refuses to admit it, noting to herself that she doesn't know that to be certain. At the end, when she is confronted with obvious knowledge of his infidelity, she still stays and consoles him. Lenore is a perfect example of a woman who gives up much for the love she believes she feels for another.
Arty Lisle, appears in The Bystander
Arty Lisle is a young man whose father has had a mental breakdown. Living in a boarding house with him, Arty has watched his father's decline in mental stability but has been unable to stop it. He is torn between his love for his father and a desire to separate himself from his father's torn image. He clearly loves his father but cannot seem to link the current father with the idol in his memory. At the end, Arty realizes he has seen something no child should, that of the decline of his or her parent.
Vance, appears in The Amish Farmer
In "The Amish Farmer," Vance is a school teacher who aims to make his students think. He is kind, but his narration of the story shows he identifies with weak Noel, and desires to be more like Daniel, the Amish Farmer. He admits he is smitten with Dawn Butler, but also notes his wariness of her, showing his lack of understanding about her personality. This misunderstanding of women is further shown by his dismay when Katie Jay notes her desire for the Amish Farmer. Vance is heroic in his own story but in life often seems to misidentify motives.
The Young Woman, appears in Verona: A Young Woman Speaks
The young woman in "Verona" is a young, pretty, vibrant, happy young girl who adores her parents and is having a luxurious vacation in Europe. She understands about the power of her strong, independent mother but also understands that this power is somehow tied to her love for her husband. The young girl also knows her father has powers to make her mother cooperate or become jealous, but her young mind attributes these powers to things other than simple love. By the end of the story, however, she is beginning to learn how these emotions play off one another.
Emily, appears in Talk of Heroes
Emily is a kind-hearted woman who finds the good in nearly everything. As a mother, she is concerned about her daughter who is having difficulty with her husband. She is the confidant to many and a natural leader, which allows her to cover for Willi. It is Emily who explains Willi's situation to the group, and Emily who asks that they forgive what he is in light of what he has done.
Willi Varig, appears in Talk of Heroes
Willi Varig is a Norwegian war hero who smuggled information to England during WWII. When he is captured by German Gestapo agents, Willi endures horrible torture to allow his colleagues time to escape the country. This event, however, leave him emotionally, physically, and mentally scarred. He becomes an alcoholic and has difficulty dealing with normal life.
Carlyle, appears in Fever
Carlyle is a teacher in his mid-thirties with two children. His wife has recently left him for one of his colleagues, and he cannot seem to accept his new life. He loves his children and worries for them but for himself as well. He is only able to put the past behind him with the help of Mrs. Webster. With her kindness and guidance, he is able to overcome.
Mrs. Webster, appears in Fever
Mrs. Webster represents sanity and stability in the story "Fever." She is an older woman with a sense of grace and wisdom, as well as being wonderful with children. She understands the needs of others, and helps Carlyle to overcome his past, and look forward to the future.
Sean, appears in Midair
Sean is a man who lives without knowing why he acts as he does. He is neurotic, compulsive, obsessive, and generally confused as he makes his way through life unsure of why his behavior is as it is. However, late in life, he remembers an episode with his insane father that helps him to realize his life has been a product of childhood events and inherited traits.
Willi, appears in Willi
Willi is a young boy who is torn by the actions of his parents. He loves both of them deeply, but after catching his mother in an affair, he cannot stand to deal with her. He tells his father, but is then unable to face his mother. He, at first, cheers silently as his father beats her but eventually comes to her rescue. Willi is a example of the strength of children's emotions and the toll their parent's lives take on them.
Louise, appears in The Fat Girl
Louise is a young woman whose identity is strongly tied to her weight. As a child, she finds happiness in sneaking food and slowly develops a weight problem. She lives a life of ridicule until her college roommate accepts her. However, when her college roommate meets a man, she helps Louise to lose weight. Throughout the diet, Louise is torn between the love she now sees in the face of others toward her and her own loss of identity. She gains wealth, a social life, and a husband, but still is unhappy. It is only when she begins to eat, and finds herself again, that she is happy.
Push, appears in A Poetic for Bullies
Push is the symbol for all bullies around the world. Unsure of who he is and jealous of everyone around him, Push finds it easier to harm and harass others than to admit his own failures. Unable to attain his own goals, he limits the ability of others to achieve theirs. It is only when he is challenged by a local hero that he finds strength in his own lack of self-worth. He finds power within himself because he realizes he has nothing left to lose.
Earl, appears in Rock Springs
Earl is a kind, loving man who makes bad decisions that often lead to trouble in relationships and with the law. He cares for his daughter deeply and consistently strives to improve her life but has no skills, so turns to minor criminal activity. When he travels to Rock Springs with his girlfriend, Edna, he believes he can again make a fresh start and be happy. He interprets the finding of a gold mine as another positive sign. However, when Edna leaves him and he again finds himself alone, he wonders how the world views him, and why they cannot see themselves in him.
The Narrator, appears in The Lover of Horses
The narrator in "The Lover of Horses" is a kind young woman whose father is dying. Coming from a family of wanderers and addicts, she has been careful to shut out the voices inside of her that tell her to stray from her life path. When her father is in his last days, however, the young girl allows herself to give in to this wandering voice and in her peace finds the strength to let her father go.
Jack Hawthorne, appears in Redemption
Jack Hawthorne is a torn, miserable boy who accidentally killed his brother. As a result, he feels he is responsible for tearing his family apart and forcing his father into his adulterous, drinking ways. Jack cowers inside himself until he discovers the French horn. In learning to play the horn, he begins to let go of the past. However, it is when he learns from his instructor that to play greatly, you have to have had suffered, that Jack can fully let go.
The Wife, appears in Dream Children
The wife in "Dream Children" is a young, pretty, intelligent woman who has suffered tragedy. Having given birth to a stillborn child, she was already vulnerable when a nurse accidentally brought a child to her to hold, believing it was hers. This event nearly destroyed her. When she moves to a farm house, she begins riding horses recklessly, as though she has nothing to lose. However, she soon learns she is able to be with that child she held during her sleep stages through astral projections, or sleep travel, and again becomes content with her life. For her, the loss of her child defined her, and it was only through the substitute of another child that she is able to find herself.
The Fisherman, appears in The Ledge
In "The Ledge," the fisherman is a gruff, cranky old man who loves his son, wife, and nephew. Although he seems crass and rough and rarely has good things to say, he continues throughout the story to show that he does care deeply for his family. When he and the children are abandoned on an island with little hope, the man does all he can to save them and tenderly helps them try to weather the storm. He gives his life trying to save his son and in the end, even his wife knows that his final acts absolved him of his life, led as a miserable man.
The Narrator, appears in Water Liars
The narrator of "Water Liars" is a man torn by knowledge. He is a kind man who loves his wife, but when he discovers he has not been her only lover, he becomes distraught. He is unable to cope with the idea of others touching his beloved. He goes to the sea to the hear the lies of others in order to come to terms with his own truth.
Samson Low, appears in Letters from the Samantha
Samson Low is the captain of the Samantha, a military vessel in the late 1700s. He is a noble man with high principles and very little discipline issues. However, on a whim, he takes in a monkey found at sea. He compares him often to a man and attempts to care for him until they can unload him. He seems to be caring and dignified, but after his own men begin to cross him and defy orders, he begins to change. He no longer claims the monkey to be a man, but simply an animal, and he eventually kills the monkey. In the end, he shows that his own power struggle has allowed him to change his beliefs.
Gil, appears in Ile Forest
Gil is a young man whose goal is to be a valued doctor. He takes care of his sister, Poma, and cares deeply for her. When he finds out Poma is wanting a relationship with Galven, he questions Martin, the servant. Martin reveals Galven is a murderer. However, Gil, loving his sister, tells her the story, and leaves it up to her as to what her choice is. Gil is a strong character who shows his love for his sister by allowing her to choose her own fate.
Galven, appears in Ile Forest
Galven is a young man whose life is not as it seems. He is ill when Gil first meets him and claims he is divorced. However, through his servant Martin, it is revealed that Galven originally slaughtered his wife and her lover. Galven remembers none of this and is a kind, gentle, honest character in the book, showing that people can do things outside of their normal behaviors and still be good.
Leo Finkle, appears in The Magic Barrel
Leo Finkle is a lonely, educated man working to be a rabbi. During his search for a wife, he begins to realize that he does not love God and was not particularly called to his position, but rather, chose it to find God. He also realizes he does not know himself well and that he suffers because he is not a social animal. It is only when he sees a picture of a young woman he desires who appears lost that he attempts to find himself through her.
Leroy Moffitt, appears in Shiloh
Leroy Moffitt is a thirty-ish man with a leg that was damaged in a car accident. As a previous truck driver, Leroy now fears getting back into his truck and has semi-retired as a result. He has hopes to build his wife a beautiful log cabin. His wife, however, has adjusted to life primarily on her own, and Leroy senses she wishes to leave him. He admits he knows little about the workings of a marriage but makes a promise to himself to try an learn in order to save his marriage.
Scar Patient, appears in The Story of a Scar
In "The Story of the Scar," an older black woman is questioned by the young man in the waiting room of a doctor's office. She has a large scar running from her forehead through her cheek that she explains was created by the knife of an old boyfriend. She is clearly the victim of society in that she is immediately blamed for the event, but as she points out, she simply made a choice to stand up for herself. She is seeking to have the scar at least lessened, but is a primary example of an abused woman who shows her pride through the telling of her story.
Phillip, appears in Murderers
Phillip is a young boy whose family is dying off in the neighborhood. His experiences are not unique in neighborhoods where extended families reside, but he ponders the issue deeply, examining their deaths. When his friend falls from the roof they are on to spy on the sexual activities of their rabbi, Phillip feels at least partly responsible and learns to deal with death in a new way.
Gay, appears in The Misfits
Gay is an older individual with a commitment issue. He is caring but cannot be tied down to one thing or person for long. He has found a woman who tolerates this, but fears his friend, Perce, is sleeping with her. When forced to choose by his own thoughts, however, Gay chooses Perce and traveling over his fears of infidelity and loneliness, showing again that for him, friendship and constant movement are vital.
Connie, appears in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
Connie is the ideal example of a teenage girl whose immaturity, irresponsibility, and cockiness lead to her demise. Connie is a beautiful teenager who defies her family often by sneaking to a drive in where older teens hang out. She often goes with boys she meets, putting herself into dangerous situations. A boy arrives at her home, threatens her, and indicates he plans to rape and kill her but lets her know she would be going with him to save her family from harm. In the end, she is selfless, and exits the house to her fate to save her family.
Grandmother, appears in A Good Man is Hard to Find
The grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" represents the sect of society who firmly believe that man's relationship with God determines their own sense of free will. She believes that The Misfit is a good man, even after he kills her son and grandchildren. She tells him he simply needs to find God, not recognizing that the man has already denounced God. In the end the grandmother is killed along with the rest of the family.
The Misfit, appears in A Good Man is Hard to Find
In "A Good Man is Hard to Find", The Misfit represents the criminal who has lost faith in God and goodness and firmly believes that to commit crime is simply to reject God. He is cruel and merciless but polite and dignified at the same time. One senses that with a different upbringing, the Misfit may have been able live a decent life, but without faith, he has chosen evil.
The Wife, appears in The Used-Boy Raisers
The unnamed wife in "The Used-Boy Raisers" is a woman with distinct feelings about her Jewish heritage. She is proud of her history and believes strongly in the Diaspora but also believes in the role of the Jewish people to remain a reminder to all humanity about suffering. She loves her children and both husbands equally but is also distant from them, as they have separate lives.
Jancy, appears in The Heavenly Animal
Jancy is a young college student whose parents are divorced. Jancy loves her mother and father deeply and feels badly for her aging, lonely father, who seems to show his love for her through caring for her car. Jancy recognizes her father's need for her and agrees to cater to him to a point but is determined to settle her own affairs. When she has an accident, she immediately thinks of her father, showing her love for him.
David, appears in Walking Out
David is an 11-year-old boy with a heroic image of his father, an avid hunter. Determined to impress him, David goes hunting with him, despite a hate for the cold, snow, and the hunt. However, when he is injured and accidentally shoots his father, David is forced to grow up tremendously in an effort to save his father's life. With the help of his father's voice, David carries him eight miles out of the forest, only to discover his father has been dead the entire time.
Ozzie, appears in The Conversion of the Jews
Ozzie, in "The Conversion of the Jews," is a young boy who is inquisitive about the nature of his Jewish faith. He questions his elders in terms of why some beliefs exist, and is consistently unhappy with the responses. His mother hits him, and the rabbi chastises him. It is only when they believe he threatens suicide that he has a power over them. To show his power, he forces them and others to declare a belief in Jesus Christ and in a God who can do anything. Once given the power of the Gods, Ozzie goes back to being a child.
Eddie Fenn, appears in Akhnilo
In "Akhnilo," Eddie Fenn is a carpenter with a degree from Dartmouth. He was on a path to greatness before he began drinking and lost his ability to focus. Nearing alcoholism, he struggles to break the cycle and find himself again. However, one evening, he begins to imagine voices in the night air, and as he struggles to hear the voices, he finds himself losing the words they speak, much like he lost his future.
Orson, appears in The Christian Roomates
Orson is a young man whose life has been privileged in terms of abilities and opportunities. He is a religious boy who attends Harvard believing he will outshine everyone as he has done his entire life. However, when his roommate appears to be stronger than he, both intellectually and personally, Orson begins to question his own beliefs. He begins to obsess over Henry and soon finds himself nearing a breakdown because of his own insecurities. In the end, he explodes and loses his faith.
James, appears in The Liar
In "The Liar," James is a young man who tells lies consistently. His father has passed away, his mother is overbearing, and he uses lies as a weapon against the world, particularly against his mother. He claims to not know why he lies, nor why his lies are morbid and often involve the ailing health of his family. He is a powerful character but one with many inner issues regarding the death of his father and his relationship with his mother.
This section contains 3,478 words
(approx. 9 pages at 400 words per page)