Two Minimalist Short Stories Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Literature Type: Essay Paper: #95618433 Related Topics: Anton Chekhov, Short Story, English Literature, Ernest Hemingway
Excerpt from Essay :

English Literature - Introduction

Minimalism -- John Barth's Description

Minimalism certainly means using fewer words to express thoughts, plots, ideas, quotes and action, but there is more to it than that, according to John Barth. By using Henry James' mantra of "show, don't tell," Barth covers the subject very well. Barth also quotes Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote that "…undue length is…to be avoided." The short story itself is an example of minimalism, simply because it condenses the components of a novel into a much shorter space. There are writers who specialize in what Barth calls "luxuriant abundance" and in "extended analysis," which clearly is the opposite of minimalism; he mentions Guy de Maupassant and Anton Chekov as "masters of terseness" (Barth, 1986).

And because Barth uses examples of well-known writers, he certainly couldn't omit Ernest Hemingway, whose short stories were very tight and yet very expressive with fewer, well-chosen words and phrases. "You could omit anything…and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood" (Barth). Creating minimalist fiction means using "stripped-down vocabulary… [And] a stripped down rhetoric" that reduces figurative language, Barth writes. He extols the virtues of "super-short stories" -- such as one of the stories selected for this assignment, "The Cranes."

Thesis: Learning to write effectively without an overload of descriptive phrases or adjectives, and learning to say more with less by showing, not telling, is the crux of the matter when it comes to minimalism.

The Cranes

In Peter Meinke's short story, the author lets the reader know (through minimal narrative) that the two people watching whooping cranes are not well-to-do and that they are old. The "shower curtain spread over the front seat" is a very short but clear indication that the seat is likely tattered or torn, or otherwise not suitable for sitting on without a cover. But since there are seat covers available in auto supply stories -- and they're probably not cheap -- a reader can assume this was a cost-cutting move on the couple's part. Minimalism, Barth explained,

Readers know that the couple has been in an accident and that they are stuck in some kind of health rut, which probably includes psychological...

...

"I could use a few clowns" is a tell-tale admission that the man is depressed or otherwise struggling (Meinke, 1987). He can't get up stairs and is restricted in what he can eat or drink -- and smoking is off-limits; so how serious is his health, a reader naturally wonders? Less of an explanation (minimalism) allows the reader's mind to expand the knowledge of what he is reading.

The woman stands by him and likes to hear his voice, yet there is a strong sense of sadness. The personification of the cranes (their feathers are falling out and their kids never write) leads the reader to believe that the couple's own kids are estranged from their parents. Birds' offspring certainly don't write to their parents and readers can infer that the man is losing his hair -- either from cancer treatments or very old age. "Never got tired of listening to you…" suggests things are at an end (Meinke). She is summing up the past, and instead of saying "never get tired…" Meinke uses "got" as a substitute because it is past tense and this couple seems to be past tense. Show, don't tell, Barth insists, and that's what this dialogue is doing.

Readers know the couple had good intimacy when they were younger. He says she was "terrific in ways I couldn't tell the kids about," and this adds to the melancholy of the situation (Meinke). All these little statements add up to the reader understanding they are very old and are simply being sentimental, using the cranes as a way to deflect their thoughts from their own failure. He wears a hearing aid but he didn't bring it; he says he can "…hardly hear anything anyway" but he did hear smaller birds squabbling, so we understand exaggeration is part of getting old (Meinke). The juxtaposition in the last two sentences (the cranes life off towards the sun but the car is "sinister") is a way for Meinke to add drama and misery without using a lot of words. The car may be an old VW ("beetle-like") but its paint has been burned off by the sun because it is seen in "metallic…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Barth, John. "A Few Words about Minimalism." The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com. 1986.

Meinke, Peter. "The Cranes." In Literature to Go. New York: Macmillan. 192-194. 2010.

Proulx, Annie. "55 Miles to the Gas Pump." In Literature to Go. New York: Macmillan


Cite this Document:

"Two Minimalist Short Stories" (2014, October 08) Retrieved August 11, 2022, from
https://www.paperdue.com/essay/two-minimalist-short-stories-192519

"Two Minimalist Short Stories" 08 October 2014. Web.11 August. 2022. <
https://www.paperdue.com/essay/two-minimalist-short-stories-192519>

"Two Minimalist Short Stories", 08 October 2014, Accessed.11 August. 2022,
https://www.paperdue.com/essay/two-minimalist-short-stories-192519

Related Documents
Rhetorical Analysis of the Story of an Hour
Words: 1560 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 50425121

Kate Chopin, "The Story of an Hour" Kate Chopin's 1894 short story "The Story of An Hour" depicts a major event in a minimalist fashion -- most of the action of the tale takes place in the mind of the protagonist, Louise Mallard. The story fits well with modern summaries of Chopin's achievement in longer fiction: her well-known novel The Awakening, published five years after "The Story of An Hour," would

Cathedral, a Story by Raymond Carver, There
Words: 432 Length: 1 Pages Topic: Urban Studies Paper #: 58717226

Cathedral, a story by Raymond Carver, there are three main characters: a husband, a wife, and the wife's blind, male friend. The story is told in the first person, from the point-of-view of the husband, and the mood and tone of the story is austere and tense. At the beginning of the story, the character of the husband is hostile, and angry that the wife's blind friend is coming to

Ernest Hemingway the Author Ernest Hemingway Specialized
Words: 2854 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 18615825

Ernest Hemingway The author Ernest Hemingway specialized in what is known as naturalistic writing. He tells the reader only the basic information about what is going on in a particular short story or novel. Much is told about the natural settings of the stories, but very little is given about the characters in his stories. Instead, the facts about the people, including their personalities and characteristics, have to be inferred by

Carver's "Cathedral" an Analysis of Theme and
Words: 1072 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 7133761

Carver's "Cathedral" An Analysis of Theme and Plot in Carver's "Cathedral" Raymond Carver states that by the mid-1960s he had tired of reading and writing "long narrative fiction" ("On Writing" 46). Shorter fiction, he found, was more immediate. Flannery O'Connor states a similar idea in The Habit of Being: for her, the novel was a literary medium that could bog down all of one's creative powers. Turning to a short story was

Raymond Carver Cathedral Raymond Carver
Words: 2132 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 85993359

The beginning of the end being her attempted suicide, due to the fact that she felt disconnected from him, her first husband, and the world, as he was in the military and they had constantly moved away from human connections she had made. (Carver NP) Her second marriage, to the insular narrator, going to bed at different times, and he sitting up watching late night television in his insular

Ann Beattie's "Janus" Great Literature
Words: 2371 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 93600186

6). Beattie, like anyone else, was a product of her times. She is also, again like anyone else, a product of her own individual circumstances. A further interpretation of the bowl as a symbol of the feminine finds a deeper connection between the circumstances of the fictional Andrea and the real-life Ann Beattie. Though she is not especially forthcoming with personal details, there are some facts with which a correlation