What are two short stories with similar themes?  

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Two short stories that have very similar themes are “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid. The themes in both stories center on inter-generational relationships, such as between a mother and a daughter. They also deal with cross-cultural influences on identity.

In Amy Tan’s story, the first-person...

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Two short stories that have very similar themes are “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid. The themes in both stories center on inter-generational relationships, such as between a mother and a daughter. They also deal with cross-cultural influences on identity.

In Amy Tan’s story, the first-person narrator is an adult woman who is reflecting on her childhood experiences. Her mother, Suyuan, is an immigrant from China, but June (or Jing-mei), the narrator, was born in the United States. Her mother wants the best for her, so she has encouraged the daughter to take up a number of activities and practice diligently. She has the expectation that, through diligence, the girl can become a prodigy—in this case, at the piano. June rebels against the strictures of constant practicing and also realizes that she has inadequate talent to excel at piano. Her mother rejects this reasoning, stating that there “two kinds” of daughter, obedient and disobedient. She would prefer that June follow Chinese ways, and rejects as disobedience her daughter’s American ideas.

Jamaica Kincaid presents an ambiguous situation. The narrator’s identity is not clearly established. The entire story is a monologue consisting of advice and comments on proper behavior. The most common interpretation is that this narrator is the mother of the “girl” in the title. She is sharing her life’s wisdom and her concerns over society’s attitudes toward females with her daughter. An example of this judgement is her admonishment not to talk to “wharf-rat boys.” Some of the content and Kincaid’s Antiguan heritage may indicate that the speaker is Antiguan as well.

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Michelle Roberts's "Your Shoes" and Doris Lessing's "Flight" both cast a central character from similar circumstances and place her in a similar situation.

"Flight" is the Nobel-winning Lessing's 1957 short story about an eighteen-year-old woman leaving her grandfather's home to get married. The transition from family to matrimonial home causes strain on the relationship between the woman and her protective grandfather on one hand and between the grandfather and his daughter on the other.

In Michelle Roberts's "Your Shoes," the situation is substantially similar, with only cosmetic differences (instead of a granddaughter leaving her grandfather, the story centers on a daughter leaving her mother; instead of the daughter leaving for marriage, she has run away).

In addition to these superficial similarities between the two stories, they also both share a common theme of loss and separation originating from maturation and a coming of age.

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As was mentioned the previous post, a good way to find stories with similar themes is to explore different works from the same author. "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil" are both written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and share similar themes. Both short stories examine the themes of secret sins, guilty consciences, and false appearances. Throughout both short stories, Hawthorne explores how outwardly religious individuals harbor inherent wickedness and sin. These pious churchgoers attempt to cover their sins from the public eye. In "Young Goodman Brown," Brown is shocked to find out that many respected members of his community are participating in a Black Mass. In "The Minister's Black Veil," Mr. Hooper draws attention to people's secret sins by wearing his black veil. Also, Brown's experience metaphorically represents a person's guilty conscience. In the other short story, people begin to avoid Mr. Hooper because his black veil reminds them of their own sins. Both works examine similar themes, and Hawthorne displays his interest in sin and the ways in which people attempt to hide their transgressions. 

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One way to tackle the problem of finding similar themes in different stories is to use the same author.  I would recommend Edgar Allen Poe.  He has written a lot of short stories, and the theme of death, mortality, and/or revenge is usually at the forefront.  You could compare "The Cask of Amontillado" with "The Tell-Tale Heart."  Both stories feature a narrator that tells the reader how he killed somebody.  

You could compare short stories that show man struggling against nature's seeming indifference to his existence.  Jack London's "To Build a Fire" works nicely.  You could compare that with John Muir's "Stickeen."  Those two stories offer a nice compare and contrast too, because in London's story the main character dies because of his overconfidence in himself.  Muir's story also has a confident leading character, but he seems to respect nature's power a bit more.  He lives.  Bret Harte's "The Outcasts of Poker Flats" also works with that theme, because it is about a group of people struggling to survive when a winter storm traps them in a mountain pass.   

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