In this unit, students will explore great works of American literature and consider how writers reflect the time period in which they write. They will write two literary analysis papers and also work in groups to research and develop anthologies of excellent American stories.


  1. Students read and analyze stories from several 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century American authors. After researching a time period, they select stories from that period to create an anthology. The readings enhance their understanding of the short story, increase their exposure to well-known American authors, and allow them to examine the influence of social, cultural, and political context.
  2. Students examine elements of short stories and have an opportunity for close reading of several American short stories. During these close readings, they examine the ways that short story writers attempt to explore the greater truths of the American experience through their literature.


These questions are a guide to stimulate thinking, discussion, and writing on the themes and ideas in the unit. For complete and thoughtful answers and for meaningful discussions, students must use evidence based on careful reading of the texts.

  1. If you were to write a short story about this decade, what issues might you focus on?
  2. What defines a short story? Just length?
  3. To what extent do these stories reflect the era or decade in which they were written?
  4. To what extent are the themes they address universal?


History.com has short videos on the Vietnam War (“Vietnam” and “A Soldier's Story”).

English Language Arts, Reading Informational Text, Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening
Material Type:
Unit of Study
High School
Plot, Humor, Diction, Journaling, Short Story, Character, Poetry, Writing, American Dream, Speech, Journal Entries, Personas, Essays, Comedy, Edgar Allen Poe, Quick Write, Dialogue, Persona, Grade 11 ELA, Symbol, Compare and Contrast, Women in Society, Judgement, Iowa K-12 E-Curriculum, Protagonist, Characters, Point-of-view, Genre, Peer Review, Short Stories, Identity, Slogans, Shakespeare, Vietnam War, Grammar, Groups, Cheever, Narration, American Literature, Symbolism, 3rd Person, Race, Essay, 1st Person, Single Effect, Editing, Motif, Journals, John Cheever, Civil War, Echo, Themes, Projects, Thesis, AEA Learning Online OER Course, Narcissus, Literary Analysis, Collaboration, Langauge, Dialectical Journal
Unit 2 The American Short Story
The American Short Story

Education Standards (156)