Conflict in Literature: 7 Great Short Story Upsets

In honor of the Rhinos 2-0 upset victory in the parks and rec U10 soccer league, I bring you the seven greatest upsets in literature.

Before we get to our list of the greatest short story upsets of all time, I want to make sure you get something useful for your classroom: Understanding Conflict in Literature Chart.

Oh, and check out these short stories for teaching conflict with lesson ideas.

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Don’t be upset over a lack of lesson plans, check out “The Most Dangerous Game” Teaching Guide. It contains common core aligned lesson plans, graphic organizers, a quiz, rubrics, annotations, analysis, answer keys, and more.

Rainsford over Zaroff in "The Most Dangerous Game." It's not often an accomplished hunter like Sanger Rainsford is considered an overwhelming underdog. After all, he's a world renowned hunter whose written books on hunting snow leopards in Tibet and other dangerous animals. But now he's going up against another world famous hunter, General Zaroff. Under normal circumstances the contest might be a toss up, but in "The Most Dangerous Game" Zaroff has home island advantage, a gun, and a pack of dogs. Rainsford has a knife.

As with most heavy favorites, Zaroff comes in way over confident and extremely bored, which leads to one of literature's greatest upsets.


Slide5Jerry over the Tunnel in "Through the Tunnel." The odds of Jerry making it through the tunnel without dying a horrible death are quite long. After all, he is a pasty mama's boy from England trying to compete with the natives in a dangerous rite of passage involving tunnels, water, and a potential drowning.

As with most pasty English boys with overprotective Mom's, Jerry does something really stupid, which leads to one of literature's greatest upsets.


Slide6The Challenger Dog over Andrew Jackson in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." When short story enthusiasts think of Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," they normally think of Dan'l Webster's triumphs in the sport of frog-jumping, but before there was Dan'l Webster, there was Andrew Jackson, Jim Smiley's pup that won his fights by seizing onto the hind legs of his opponent. His final opponent, however, had no hind legs, having gotten them removed by a circular saw.

As with most fighters, you better have more than one method of winning, or you'll end up as the loser in one of literature's greatest upsets.


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You want Poe? We got Poe. Check out these Edgar Allan Poe Teaching Guides. We've got "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Black Cat," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "The Cask of Amontillado."

The Inquisition Prisoner over The Pit in "The Pit and the Pendulum." I will allow the prisoner to describe in his own words how the odds were stacked against him:

I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by monkish ingenuity in torture. My cognisance of the pit had become known to the inquisitorial agents--THE PIT, whose horrors had been destined for so bold a recusant as myself, THE PIT, typical of hell, and regarded by rumour as the Ultima Thule of all their punishments. The plunge into this pit I had avoided by the merest of accidents, and I knew that surprise or entrapment into torment formed an important portion of all the grotesquerie of these dungeon deaths. Having failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl me into the abyss...

This pit learns the hard way that General LaSalle is on the way, leading to one of literature's greatest upsets.


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Don't be upset over a lack of lesson plans, check out "A Sound of Thunder" Teaching Guide. It contains common core aligned lesson plans, graphic organizers, a quiz, rubrics, annotations, analysis, answer keys, and more.

The Butterfly over Human Society in "A Sound of Thunder." It doesn't look good for the butterfly as it lies crushed on the bottom of Eckles' shoe. But fast forward 60 million years and that butterfly has caused a disruption in the color wheel, drastic changes in the alphabet, the altering of an important election, and a bullet in the back of Eckles' head. The butterfly even got an effect named after it.

Eckles learns the hard way not to step off the path, leading to one of literature's greatest upsets.


Yellow Wallpaper

Don't go crazy because you don't have lesson plans. Check out "The Yellow Wallpaper" teaching guide. It contains common core aligned lesson plans, graphic organizers, rubrics, a quiz, answer keys, and more.

The Narrator over the Yellow Wallpaper in "The Yellow Wallpaper." Anyone who's ever tried to remove wallpaper with their bare hands--a talent reserved only to unsupervised children under the age of 4--can relate to the difficulties Jane (the speculative name of the narrator) has to overcome. Luckily for her, her husband and sister-in-law lock her in the room and don't allow her to do anything else, giving her ample time to peel. And let us not forget the blessings of madness and postpartum depression that give her the focused determination.

Looks like the wallpaper learns the hard way that just sitting there doing nothing is bad for a crazy and bad for wallpaper, leading to one of literature's greatest upsets.


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Stop the train wreck of boring lessons with "The Story of an Hour" teaching guide. It contains common core aligned lesson plans, graphic organizers, rubrics, a quiz, answer keys, and more.

Brently Mallard over the Train and Richards in "The Story of an Hour." It wasn't looking good for Brently Mallard. His train had crashed. There were no survivors. His friend Richards said so. Now that I think about it, maybe Richards did know Mallard wasn't on the train and used this train crash thing as an opportunity to get with Mrs. Mallard, which would have probably failed even if Mallard had suffered a grisly death via train crash. As it turns out both Richards and Mrs. Mallard got the surprise of their lives.

Looks like the train learned an important lesson: Don't crash until you're sure the husband of the story's protagonist is actually on it, giving us one of literature's greatest upsets.

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