Short stories are as dear as lullabies if they are introduced at the right time. While babies derive delight in looking at the illustrations and hearing the familiar voice of their parents, children love to cuddle up with a good story book.
My earliest memories of short stories are connected with my grandma, who could tell me weirest tales without a book but only at bed time. Her favorite refrain that ‘if we tell stories during the day, travelers forget their way’ was taken seriously by us. Though I chuckle at her belief now but it brings fond memories of her face whenever I think of stories.
My love for stories grew as I chose to study and later teach literature and had an easy access to all those renowned names known for writing brilliant pieces. Some of them got entrenched in my memory as they encouraged me to imbibe the values that they glowed with.
This love was recently revived by ‘What’s In A Name’ by Sally Cronin, an engaging collection of twenty short stories, each story inspired from real life and emotions that every individual has to live through. Another captivating anthology ‘Twelve Tales Of Christmas’ by Cathleen Townsend infuses a spirit of togetherness and warmth through its stories of human interest. Now I am reading ‘The Story Teller Speaks’ by Annika Perry and I am amazed at her enchanting style of holding the readers.
My blogger friend Nihar whose ever-inspiring creative stories make a delightful reading, recently requested me to share the short stories that have left a mark on my personality and I got this idea of sharing these timeless classic tales.
The first one that comes to my mind is the ‘Gift of Magi’ by O.Henry. When I had read this story, I was too young to absorb the emotion behind buying a gift, too young to understand why gifts are so important, as I had rarely received them but I learnt how important they can be and why people make sacrifices. I often wonder – could there be a better example of true love?
This value of sacrifice is further highlighted in ‘The Last Leaf’ by O. Henry. Old Behrman, an unsuccessful, dejected artist who was always talking about his masterpiece, had nothing to sacrifice but he wanted to save the life of young Johnsie who had lost the desire to live. The last leaf that never fell and saved her life was actually Behrman’s masterpiece that he had painted on a snowy and windy night! How benevolence and inspiration can uplift human spirit touches my heart whenever I read this story.
‘The Model Millionaire’ by Oscar Wilde is remembered not only for the excellent prose and succinct style of Wilde’s writing but also for inserting subtle messages for humanity like… “Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed.” Generosity could be an inborn trait and a kind act never goes unnoticed. If Hughie could donate his last sovereign to the ‘poor beggar,’ the beggar didn’t disappoint him!
Saki, whose real name was H.H.Munro has written several masterpieces but ‘The Background’ appeals to me the most, as it is a satire on the hypocrisy and love of art, which is considered to be more valuable than a human being who is treated like a rare piece of art as he carried the masterpiece of a tatoo artist on his back! The story jolts you out of your slumber and makes an effort to underline what is more important – a person’s dignity and freedom or just a piece of art?
God Sees the Truth but Waits by Leo Tolstoy made a deep impact on me and I have discussed it time and again to fathom why does God wait so long, why does an innocent suffer for the crime of another person, how could forgiveness be as noble as it has been made out to be? Spiritual interpretations of this story have failed to convince me why was an innocent man used as a tool for the purgation of the soul of a hardened criminal? Isn’t God all-powerful?
The Bet by Anton Chekhov delves deeper into human psychology, bringing out the frailties of human beings on one hand and nobility that one can acquire if one wishes to. The argument over what kind of punishment is better – life imprisonment or death penalty culminates in proving that life imprisonment could be more humane as it offers an opportunity to the criminal to change. The lawyer who chose to accept solitary confinement, just for the bet, slowly rose above ordinary human beings and understood how immaterial is the lust for money and luxury.
A Man Who Had No Eyes by MacKinlay Kantor has stayed in my memory for the outstanding style of narration, style and a sudden unexpected twist that leaves the reader spellbound. It is not just a short story… it is a comment on life, how we approach it positively and move on. A must read to change your outlook on life.
Sparrows by K.A. Abbas brilliantly highlights some harsh realities of life, which had hardened a man. But a streak of kindness, so natural to human instincts, didn’t die and it could be ignited by loving birds, without even a word. A man, presumed to be devoid of emotions, shunned by villagers and even his own family is transformed into a loving and kind human being by the love of sparrows for their own young ones.
God Is Near by James Herriot convinced me that love could be found in furry friends too. If we love His creation, we can feel the presence of God around us even without visiting any religious places. Dr. Herriot’s unspoken commitment to the dogs and cats of Miss Stubbs was no less than her housekeeper.
Short stories lay bare various facets of life. They are more effectual in conveying the values without sermonizing about them. Each emotion can be felt through short stories if they are told in their true spirit.
Have you read any of these stories? Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.
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