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Sample Notes ISC
Sample Notes ISC

This is just to give you  an idea of the qualitative aspect of my notes. You will get comparable type of the current syllabus notes on demand. Exhaustive, focused and presented in such a manner as to enable you score very well in your examinations.



O’ Henry is ingenious in ending his stories and one of the very common features of a short story is always present at the end of his tales.


O’ Henry belongs to that genre of short story writers who gives us a surprise at the end of the story and this narrative is also no exception. The surprises are not pleasant in many cases, neither it ought to be, as life shows us time and again . An overwhelming end achieved through a very credible climax testifies to the writer’s mastery over his art. This feature of a final twist as the story ends, is a common tool of a short story writer and this has been made use of by O’ Henry as well with a consummate skill. This apart, a cleverly crafted plot, and abundant yet precise use of psychological elements have made the reading of the story a truly unforgettable experience. Short stories are well known for their distinctive characteristics of handling a particular issue with great clarity and ‘The Miracle of Lava Canyon’ is a perfect model in this respect.

The writer has set his story in a sort of expectant surrounding in a rough terrain which also plays the subtle role of creating a sort of suspense from the backstage. This is truly the hallmark of really great writers and when we appreciate this, we understand why O’ Henry is so widely read all over the world.    

Rad Conrad, the sheriff of the Siskiwah county labors under the heavy burden of a terrible secret. The secret is more terrible for the simple reason that he is a law keeper, and for a police officer, being in dread of violence and bloodshed, would really be shameful. However, the man has so far been successful in hiding this fact within him, although the task has not been an easy one. With an almost inhuman force , he chooses to embrace dangers when one comes onto him , and by using all his moral force tackles them in a most manly manner. Till date his luck has been with him. Stories of his wonderful escapades and incomparable bravery are told and retold in saloons and marketplaces but the man alone knows how false they are. He feels miserable at the thought of his secret being discovered one day.

At the outskirts of the city of Lava Canyon, lives Miss Boadicea Reed, a lovely young woman, and also harboring an awful secret . Unlike the sheriff, the sensation of fear is quite unknown to her , and never in her life she has held any person or a thing in a reverential wonder.

Near her cottage one day arrives Arizona Dan, the worst man in the country, to go to into hiding from the prying eyes of the police, after he causes some serious trouble in the city. Rad soon reaches the fugitive and as he tries to capture him unarmed, the familiar sense of dread overwhelms him. But he happens to meet the ardent gaze of Boadicea and a strange change comes over him as he feels he has somehow ceased to be a coward. He captures Rad easily after a brief struggle. Boadicea a witness to all these, suddenly falls in love with Rad and as they walk together in the falling evening,  she for the first time in her life gives a scream of terror at the sight of an insignificant creature like an ugly looking lizard.

We are taken aback by the miracle which makes two individuals completely merge with each other. The soul of one, as it were, passes into the other. Miracles commence taking place from the moment Rad and Boadicea  meet each other. The sheriff loses all his inhibitions of physical cowardice as the alchemy of LOVE  begins working its magic on him. On the other hand, Boadicea, the namesake of the ancient, bold queen, suddenly finds herself scared at the sight of an insignificant lizard. Their mental attributes, as it were, pass into each other. Human beings are what their minds are and nothing is impossible when things happen at the mental The contrasting element in the two protagonists also draws the readers inexorably to the storyline. These two characters are not only radically opposite in nature but also m to lead normal, fuller lives.

The twist, the surprise element and the way the crisis is finally resolved, leave us spellbound , as we come to the end of the story.  

Rad and Boadicea share a common point between them at the same time. Both has to harbor a secret. At the end of the story, when these two souls become one, we are pleasantly surprised by the way they complement each other. At the same time they also get rid of their peculiarities, enabling the




Discuss the distinctiveness of the literary art form of short story and the objectives of the students as  readers of short stories.


What is a short story?


Since what time we do not know, stories have been giving delight to mankind. Tales of man’s experience have been told and retold to very keenly interested audiences throughout human history, and he was always inclined to derive suitable morals from them. In the prehistoric times, these were circulated by words of mouth through generations, and such had been the charm of them, that they were never forgotten or lost from man’s cultural heritage. One of the oldest examples of such story telling is said to be the Egyptian tale of “The Two Brothers” (3200 B.C.). The Jataka tales describing

Buddha’s earlier births and the Sanskrit fables about animals are also very well known in the story telling scene.


Man, being a social animal, had to tell and listen to anecdotes as his impulses forced him to do so, and this naturally began before he had learnt to write. In due course of time, in a natural evolution of this trend, there came a time, when the material of the story was worked upon and turned into much more entertaining and instructive form, which would, over a period o0f time, became more sophisticated and artistic so as to be called literature. Occasionally, mighty names like Solomon, Ulysses, Varuna and the likes were linked to the story line to arouse awe in the minds of the listeners, and to add historical and mythical importance to them. Great religious or historical events also inspired much story telling, and slowly but surely, the art bloomed into such finesse and lent such wonderful shape and form to the materials that numerous such narratives became timeless, and mankind preserved them as a precious inheritance.


Innumerable fairy tales, stories of gods and supermen of bygone millennia still gives us pleasure, including the tens of thousands of myths, folktales and legends of almost all countries. Our prophets and seers also told us parables which we have listened to avidly

over the ages to satisfy both our love of tales as well as to satisfy our spiritual quests.


Almost every country’s literary history is replete with such traditions of story telling and they have easily transgressed time and space, sometimes because of their ability to solve man’s spiritual crisis, and more frequently because of their wonderful capacity to impart pure joy. The glories of the Greek legends and their heroes were sung in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The extravagant tales of the Arabian Nights found a ready audience in all the corners of the globe, and the Bible, one of the most widely read books by man presented its fine repository of moral stories to the world. Medieval singers of England and Scotland wandered from place to place as they sung heroic lays on the exploits of king Arthur and his mighty knights. Finally it was the Decameron, that gave the suitable character to the short story in Italy, and the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer followed its footsteps in England.


The stories of the later times now began to change their course from the supernatural and the timeless, space less domains of the gods. Man’s own life and his immediate circumstances affecting and shaping his struggles for existence became the subject matter of these accounts. The early story tellers were proficient in the art of holding the interest of their listeners, yet they were practical enough to mould their narratives to the mood of the audience gathered round them. But it was only after the invention of the printing, that the medieval stories changed their form and style, and became more or less fixed in manner. The short story became more close-knit, when some short story writers made them more realistic with life like characterizations in settings that appeared to be familiar. It is only then that the short story first announced its claim to be termed as literature.


This particular literary art form, in English, began its journey in the New World, and in the hands of master story tellers like O’ Henry, assumed its specific character as a different and definite form of literature for the first time in the modern times.


The popularity of short stories is demonstrated in our times by the plethora of magazines and periodicals, which publish them on a regular basis, and by the large numbers of the readers, who immensely enjoy them. The moderate length of the short story is definitely an advantage to modern man as he has so little time in hand to pursue anything else than his livelihood in these days of stress and competition. The short story, along with the development of magazine literature, seems to be a custom-built solution to contemporary man’s need for intellectual enjoyment, and this must be the reason why this literary art is

so widely practiced today. During the last two centuries, this factor has largely been responsible in giving a tremendous fillip to the development of the short story. It is true that the success of the Novel, prior to this, in a sense, paved the way for the short story, but once it conclusively formed its characteristic qualities, it inevitably began commanding attention.


How short a short story should be?


The last hundred and fifty years have witnessed certain well marked features to be associated with short stories. This art form, has nevertheless retained its vital characteristics very well, which are unmistakably its own. Critics and scholars are now of the opinion that a short story is supposed to be in length between about two to seven thousand words. Shorter than this, would be inadequate even to be called a anecdote, and longer than this, would tend to make it a novelette.


The idea of unity


The paramount quality, which is invariably associated with the short story, is the all pervading sense of unity it tries to encompass and project throughout the length and breadth of its body. However, they are not the same as the three unities linked with the concept of the classical drama. The unifying property of a fine technical execution is not that important here, as compared to the concept, convincing delivery of a single message or the proper presence and manifestations of the aesthetic objectives, the short story is so famous for. The implication is that it is not an expansive thing which would accept any extraneous element or component that comes its way.


The short story must present a single idea, a unified situation or impression, rendering it with an uncanny precision in the most creative manner. These factors distinguish it from a novel. The novel is expansive whereas the short story is compressive, concise and pithy. The short story must be cohesive from the very beginning to its end, and so must avoid all, that is unnecessary or irrelevant to the unique purpose it sets out to achieve. The conditions, without doubts, are rigid, but as the artist has to work under these stringent requirements, he is made to give his best while adopting this particular fictional art medium. And that is why a good short story writer chooses an action or a character or an atmosphere or simply an emotional tone as the subject matter of his art. He has to be unusually focused to employ the best of his art in selection of his materials, as well as in giving it the desired shape to create an unforgettable effect on the readers’ mind.


The final twist or the element of surprise


The element of surprise is another landmark aspect of a short story. There is no hard and fast rule that every single short story must have this feature, but there must be some secret hidden up its sleeve till the very end. This serves the purpose of sustaining the interest of the reader during the progression of the story, and on its revelations at the end, transports the reader to a higher level of understanding. Hence, the completion of the reader’s gradually deepening interest is the most important element of a short story.

Sometimes this surprise is achieved by inverting the order of events, as is frequently done in detective stories. Te mystery or the murder is not allowed to be resolved till the very last, while every possibility is examined from all angles. As a rule, even in narratives where there is no murder or mystery, and the surprise is not so obvious, the direction, the aim or the essential significance of the whole situation is kept in reserve to enliven the general atmosphere and the final impact of the story. There should preferably be a twist at the end so that it can incorporate both surprise and an imaginative appeal. Such touches of surprises are in fact essential as they go a long way to drive home the message that the short story tries to impart. A short story has its sting in its tail, as the saying goes, in the sense, that the sense of wonder or shock is meted out to the reader towards its completion, not at any point of time before.  


The challenges of a short story writer


The writer should straightaway take us to the heart of a situation without going into lengthy paraphernalia about things having no bearing on the central theme. He should also take are that the ending aptly presents itself in a perfect synthesis of time and something of depth or to look into perceptions or emotions which are normally beyond our comprehensions. In a word, our imagination should be stirred instead of being forced to boredom or tiredness.


The plot, not a must any more


For quite some time now, the short story is often written without any discernible plot as well, as is also the case with the novel to some extent. But while a novel should necessarily has to have at least a thinned-out plot, the short story writer, with his constraints of space and time, can do away with it to his advantage if he so desires. A modern short story may just portray a character or characters, an ambiance, a feeling or a piece of psychological analysis. Such treatments have been in vogue in recent times. Personal moods, intentions or some strange motives, not necessarily universal or familiar all the time, have been highlighted in these stories to make us realize the complex working of the human mind. Today the short story has infinite variety in contents as well as in treatments and rendering of the same. Hundreds of such excellent short stories are being enjoyed by the sensitive readers at the moment all over the world.


The objectives of the readers of short stories


Although reading a good short story is a pleasure in its own right, the reader should consciously try to absorb the very many aspects of this beautiful and complex art form as best as he can. First of all, getting even with the characters and the situations, and delving into the motives of the characters, help the readers to understand why and how the fictional characters behave in a picky fashion under the given circumstances in the story. And as he reaches the climax (the turning point) of the storyline, he must make sure that he has got the message (moral or simply a revelation) right. Has the reader really perceived the significance of what the writer wants to convey to him through the surprise element he presents at the end of the story? Repeated and animated reading of a short story, principally those of classical moulds, is a must to discover their real worth and more often than not, their hidden charms and mysteries.


Secondly, the student reader should be able to critically examine the story to discover its theme once he has read the same.


Closely following and comprehending the development of the storyline, the delineation of the plot and getting closely familiar with the setting and background will enable you to appreciate the story like a connoisseur does.