Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“A Fable” is a short short story. Such stories are typically not longer than one thousand to fifteen hundred words and take only a few minutes to read. There are many different types of short short stories. What they have in common, besides brevity, is that they start much closer to their climaxes than more conventional short stories, which usually offer more description and background information. Because of the need for brevity, the writer of a short short story devotes few words to describing characters or the settings in which the action takes place. There is usually only one incident occurring in a single setting. “A Fable” is a classic example of a short short story in many respects; its entire action takes place within a few minutes in a section of a subway car.

By not giving characters names, the author emphasizes the fact that they are strangers. The reader is placed among the ranks of the anonymous, voyeuristic subway passengers, who are also strangers to one another. The characters are not intended to represent real people but types of people to be seen in a metropolis every day. The young man is like thousands of other young men rushing to work downtown. The young woman is like thousands of other young women who want to get married to upwardly mobile young men who will provide them with homes and all the standard amenities of modern middle-class life. They will probably be no more or less happy or unhappy than millions of other...

(The entire section is 556 words.)