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  Brad's Teacher Writing: Out-of-Class Essay

March 31, 2006

The following essay was written to demonstrate a response using the overall quality of a story as a basis for a writing topic. The essay is a required length of 500 words.


The Pleasures of Three Short Stories

Reading a short story can give us great pleasure. “All Summer in a Day,” “The Fall of a City” and “Always a Motive” are stories that, I feel, will amply reward a student willing to read them closely.

“All Summer in a Day” rewards us with an understandable conflict and a unique setting. The memories we have of our school years are among our strongest. Ray Bradbury demonstrates a truth we know about school, using a conflict between a shy, retiring but bright young girl, Margot, and her bullying tormentor, William. After teasing her, William “seized her roughly” and suggests the children “put her in the closet.” His taunting cruelty is familiar. Even better, the story has an especially unique and interesting setting. Venus, but not the Venus we know, not exactly. On this planet it rains for seven years! Kind of like Vancouver in January, but with at least an hour of sunlight to see the “amazing blueness” that is the Venusian sky without clouds. Such an unusual setting and accessible conflict repays a reader’s efforts.

For its clarity, “Always a Motive” gives us a formula story, an inspector with a “hard voice,” and a confused young man who may or may not have kidnapped a child. Stories serve not only to enlighten us, but also to entertain. Dan Ross’s story entertains us with a plot that moves along quickly, each event elevating the conflict, and follows the classic pyramid of rising interest until it reaches a climax—the young man is innocent after all. Or is he? Ross doesn’t fail to plant a clue to keep us guessing. Was the “friendly smile” from the “little man in gray” a little too friendly? Who knows for sure, but the entertaining experience and small pleasures of a good detective story amuses us well.

Alden Nowlan’s sensitively written story, “The Fall of a City,” is a pleasure in other ways, using setting to create a sympathetic portrayal of a young boy. As the story begins, Nowlan uses an inspired metaphor, referring to the sound of rain on the roof as being like a “muted banjo twanging on the roof.” It is easy to imagine the intensity of that rain. Then there is Teddy, with his “pale, triangular face,” deciding that what he hears “was not the rattle of rain on the roof and window, but the muffled roar of distant cannon.” We have a king, “resplendent in the red and black uniform of a generalissimo,” and his name just happens to be Theodore, for which Teddy is a nickname! Even the town is named “Theodoresburg.” And in light of what follows, downstairs in his adopted home, we understand even better why the boy might want to escape into a place he commands. Nowlan’s setting helps to create sympathy for Teddy from the very beginning.

The rewards we gain from a close reading of the three stories make them, to my mind, well worth the time we’ve spent with them as a class. If a story starts off being a pleasure, it will invite us back for a closer look, one that might just bring us sympathy for a young boy, a confused young man, or a retiring girl from Earth.


—542 words; first draft for a 500-word essay



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