Literary Similarities and Differences in Short Stories

All of the four short stories discussed: “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Story of an Hour,” “A&P,” and “Battle Royal,” share some literary elements.  These similar elements include the presence of both a protagonist and an antagonist of sorts. In “The Cask of Amontillado” our protagonist Montressor is, unfortunately, also a murderer. While the proud and oblivious victim Fortunato embodies the story’s antagonist. Likewise, in “The Story of an Hour,” it seems plain to the reader that Mrs. Mallard is the protagonist struggling against the antagonist. However, here there is an ambiguity. Is the story’s antagonist her oppressive but loving husband who “had never looked save with love upon her?” (Chopin 206) Or does Chopin introduce an abstract antagonist in the concept of marriage that seems to imprison Mrs. Mallard? In John Updike’s short story, “A&P” protagonist and antagonist seem more obvious. Our reluctant hero, Sammy is clearly the protagonist. While the “old and gray” (Updike 238) Lengel is the apparent antagonist as he chastises Queenie and her friends. Lastly, in “Battle Royal” Ellison presents the unnamed narrator as the unwavering protagonist patiently awaiting his turn to give his oration, while the ghost of the narrator’s grandfather represents the antagonist.

              The four short stories also diverge in some literary elements. For example, the setting of each story differs greatly. “The Story of an Hour” gives the reader a glimpse at life during the late 19th century. Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is set in the festive mood of carnival which turns quite dark as the characters move in the damp catacombs. In “Battle Royal” the setting is a lavish hotel ballroom while Updike’s “A&P” takes us to a most mundane place, a grocery store.

              Just as the stories differ in setting they also differ in their use of symbolism. A few examples of this follow. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” the trowel represents death and the Amontillado wine itself symbolizes temptation. In “Battle Royal,” the scholarship paper signifies a ruse, and the blond stripper embodies the image of a parallel victim. Lastly, in “A&P,” Sammy’s apron symbolizes naivety.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour.

Ellison, Ralph. Battle Royal.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Cask of Amontillado.

Updike, John. A&P.

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