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Literature – Fable and Short Story Comparison

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    Aida Soto Eng 102 Prof. Dragan Essay #1, Revised Literature – Fable and Short Story Comparison A story is a story, but not all stories are told the same. While fables and short stories both have plots and characters, fables like “An Appointment in Samarra” by English novelist W. Somerset Maugham, often have a clearly stated or interpreted moral, while short stories like “A Pair of Tickets”, by Chinese-American author Amy Tan, tell a tale that leaves readers thinking.

    Fables are stories that are direct, use unrealistic characters such as animals and objects with human characteristics, and are written with the ultimate goal of a presenting the reader with a moral. While not clearly stated by Maugham, readers as can easily interpret the moral in “An Appointment in Samarra” as “You can never escape Death. ” Even though this fable is only about a paragraph long, it presents a plot and a clear moral.

    Characters in a fable are usually unrealistic such as talking animals or objects and while this story has human characters, they are used metaphorically to state the moral, which is another quality of a fable. The story is told by Death, who Maugham represents as a woman. Maugham writes the story in a literal sense for better understanding of the moral, it is easier to envision a physical escape from a person, than an escape from an act (death).

    The realization of the moral comes at the end when Death states, “I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra” (Maugham, 6). Death knew just where to find the servant, as Samarra was the very place he ran to escape. Fables like “An Appointment in Samarra” have existed so long because they are short stories that are easy to retell, never grow old, and are written to present a moral to the reader. While the moral is not spelled out for readers as in Aesop’s fables, it is easily understood alike.

    Unlike “An Appointment in Samarra”, “A Pair of Tickets”, written in 1989 by Amy Tan, focuses more on the story and less on a moral, using characters, settings, dialogues, and descriptive writing. The characters and the setting that Amy Tan creates in this short story are both endearing and comforting. Tan presents the cultural elements passed down and lost between generations. The story is told by 36 year old June May who is visiting China for the first time with her father Canning Woo to realize her mother Suyuan’s wish of coming home.

    June May was raised in California and has a more American view than her mother, who in the story has recently passed away. June May’s mother believed that she would realize her cultural roots as June May recalls her mother saying, “Someday you will see, It is in your blood, waiting to be let go” (Tan, 145). The setting for the majority of this story is in China, which plays an important role in June May’s transformation from American to Chinese.

    Upon her train entering China, June may starts feeling a transformation, “I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones aching with a familiar old pain” (Tan, 145). Her visit to China proving her mother’s belief. Her Chinese culture was engrained in her just waiting to come out. Tan uses descriptive writing that creates an almost poetic tone to this story. She writes about June May’s half sisters, who her mother was forced to abandon on the side of the road almost 40 years ago during a time of war in China.

    June May’s father describes the meanings of her sister’s names, “One means ‘Spring Rain, ‘ the other ‘Spring Flower’ “ (Tan, 153). The names sound like titles of a poem or a song, giving readers an image of the sisters as sweet and fragile. Simply by adding these names in her story, Tan adds character to the twin sisters making us eager to read about June May’s union with them. When June May and her sisters meet for the first time, they take a picture with a Polaroid camera and wait for it to develop. They realize that standing together, they look like their mother.

    It is as if their mother is a part of their union, even though she is not physically present, as they realize that this was her wish and that she is a part of them, “Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish” (Tan, 157). Amy Tan’s descriptive writing paints a picture for us. Often times it is not necessarily the story told, but how vividly it is told, that makes it so memorable. While “An Appointment in Samarra” has a very direct plot, “A Pair of Tickets” weaves its plot with deep emotion and memorable characters giving us a glimpse into their lives.

    In Tan’s story, we even have a bonus story in the decision June May’s mother made to give up her twin daughters. As June’s father Canning explains the decision made almost 40 years ago by her mother, he says “And without looking back, she walked down the road, stumbling and crying, thinking only of this one last hope, that her daughters would be found by a kindhearted person who would care for them” (Tan, 154). Canning describes the struggles June’s mother had to endure as she ran away with her babies, “Her shoulders ached from the two babies swinging from scarf slings.

    Blisters grew on her palms from holding two leather suitcases” (Tan, 154). This vivid description gives June May and readers a better understanding of the tough choice her mother, Suyuan, had to make. In conclusion, many readers prefer to read a story with believable characters and struggles, than to read a fable with cartoon-like characters and a moral that tells us what to make of the story. Fables use character traits to give the meaning of the story, oftentimes using characters that are unrealistic, such as talking animals or objects.

    Short stories use believable characters to tell the story, sometimes leaving the meaning of the story open to interpretation. Without good characters and great writing, a plot in a story is almost like a cake without icing. While the plot in the story of “An Appointment in Samarra” is clear, it is ultimately the moral that makes us analyze the story. The plot in “A Pair of Tickets” is also clear, but the story is told vividly giving us realistic characters and struggles and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Literature – Fable and Short Story Comparison. (2016, Dec 10). Retrieved from

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    What is the main difference between folktale and fable?
    Folktale is a story originating in popular culture, typically passed on by word of mouth. A fable is a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral. The main difference between folktale and fable is that fables always teach a moral lesson to the readers, but not all folktales have a moral.
    What makes fables different from any other type of literature?
    What is a Fable? In literature, a fable (pronounced fey-buh l) is a short fictional story that has a moral or teaches a lesson. Fables use humanized animals, objects, or parts of nature as main characters, and are therefore considered to be a sub-genre of fantasy.

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