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Continuing from Toonari Post’s Top 5 Books to Get You Thinking, here are five short stories that will do the same. Although they are called short stories, it does not mean that they are missing any component a longer story may have. These five short stories will change your life, your mentality, and how you feel about society around you.
Do not let the publishing dates scare you off or cause you to question their relevancy; they are just as entertaining and impactful now as they were when first released. The five authors discussed are well-known authors who tend to draw a lot of attention to their controversial stories told with jaw-dropping talent. These short stories are not in any way ranked, but are equally important and complex.
1. Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin
Published in 1957, this short story sums up the beginning and initial revolution of modern jazz music. The story tells of Sonny, a man who struggles with drug addiction and finding his place in society, yet finds an escape in playing the piano. However, Sonny’s story is told by the unnamed narrator; Sonny’s brother. Baldwin writes in a way where jazz is the rhythmic formation, and fills in the gaps between characters through the style of writing that mimics typical jazz style.
The story doesn’t just mirror a jazz song, it also creates a story that makes the concept and components to jazz music feel as if it is a true character that helps the reader understand the diverse lives of the two brothers. This is done in a way that reshapes any previous ideas of jazz and musicians in a way that the reader can see how people around them make decisions and deal with life differently than they might.
2. Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s short story was published in 1927, yet still finds ways to leave readers astounded throughout the entire plot. Hills Like White Elephants is a very short story that tells of a man and woman who are waiting at a train station in an ambiguous way. Hemingway’s ingenuity shines through because the story leaves everything for the reader to form, allowing for great conversations and an excuse to use the imagination.
There is a lot of controversy including topics such as marriage, abortion, and the roles men and women play with these ideas. It is a great visual short story, yet indefinite in the important scenes, which is impactful by allowing the reader to place themselves in the position of the characters and their actions.
3. Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor tends to shock readers with her writings, no matter how short. She usually goes for the shock value by taking on very intense and dismal situations in life. This specific story, published in 1965, deals with a tense mother-son relationship where they both have personal issues to deal with, yet take it out on each other and others around them. The story from beginning to end, of course lives up to O’Connor’s Southern Gothic writing style.
A well-known quote from the story is during some dialogue between the mother and son examining culture. O’Connor writes, “‘True culture is in the mind, the mind,’ he said, and tapped his head, ‘the mind.’ ’It’s in the heart,’ she said, ‘and in how you do things, and how you do things is because of who you are.’” There are so many themes and underlying motifs throughout the story that the reader will have to take time to read it more than once. Also, be ready for a surprise ending that will really get the reader thinking.
4. Nineteen Fifty-Five by Alice Walker
Alice Walker is a very strong female writer who has many well-known works, and this short story does nothing but live up to her famous voice as an author. Nineteen Fifty-Five was published in 1981 and describes a famous musician and his way to fame, while never knowing the real meaning to the song that got him there. The world loves this musician, and yet he struggles with finding the same meaning the lady who he bought the song from feels when she sings it.
The story does not ever say who the musician is, but the reader can definitely pin point it by the end, if not before. Walker takes on the situation when people get caught up in stuff they either do not know the truth about, or something that does not truly matter. The ending to the story states, “They was crying and crying and didn’t even know what they was crying for.”
This line gets you thinking about how as a whole we tend to get caught up in following and being the perfect fans for musicians and the like, but do we know the truth or see bigger problems in the world? The story shows the reader how we sometimes let less important things impact us the most.
5. Recitatif by Toni Morrison
Morrison is known for her multi-faceted stories, covering all sorts of decades and topics that cause the reader to rethink his or her actions and mind-set. This short story, published in 1983, may be shorter than her other works, but has the same strong impact. She writes about two young girls who meet in a children’s home because their moms are unable to care for them.
There are five different times throughout these two characters’ lives that they run into each other. Morrison makes it clear that one girl is black and one is white, but she never tells you which is which. The story truly shows that it does not matter what race you are, since everyone has issues and triumphs throughout their lives that should not be stamped to a specific race. We all can learn and relate to each other no matter what.
No matter which story you start with, be ready to be impacted and challenged.