Justification for Teaching

The thought-provoking, classroom-friendly short stories in this anthology are essential to the syllabus of any educator who wants to provide students with many different themes and perspectives to analyze and discuss.

The short story is a potent teaching device in a small package and an accommodating source of English instruction for students of several learning styles. An anthology of short stories like this one can help you teach your students about many story archetypes, narrative devices, and literary elements in the same span of time as you would spend on one novel.

Classic American Short Stories presents examples of naturalism (“The Outcast of Poker Flats;” “Hands”) and unique literary vernacular (“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”). This anthology contains stories with themes of choice (“Bartleby the Scrivener”), freedom and confinement (“The Cask of Amontillado,” “Hands”), and love and sacrifice (“The Gift of the Magi”).

Content Warning

Classic American Short Stories contains some stories that have mild sexual content, particularly “Hands” and “Désirée’s Baby.”


Classic American Short Stories is a collection of short stories by some of the best writers of American Literature. The anthology consists of:

  • "Young Goodman Brown," by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • "Bartleby the Scrivener," by Herman Melville
  • "The Cask of Amontillado," by Edgar Allen Poe
  • "To Build A Fire," by Jack London
  • "The Open Boat," by Stephen Crane
  • "The Outcasts of Poker Flats," by Bret Harte
  • "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry
  • "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," by Mark Twain
  • "Désirée’s Baby," by Kate Chopin
  • "Hands," by Sherwood Anderson

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Dialogue
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor
  • Naturalism
  • Symbolism
  • Vernacular
  • Moral

Related Works

Similar anthologies offered by Prestwick House:

Key Facts

  • Length: 168 pages
  • Lexile Measure: varies by story
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9 – 12


"Bartleby the Scrivener" has five different film adaptations, the most recent being Bartleby (2001). Directed by Jonathan Parker, Bartleby diverges from Melville's original story by setting the film in a modern office and incorporating sitcom-like humor.

"The Cask of Amontillado" was adapted to film in 1998. It was directed by Mario Cavalli.

A film version of "To Build a Fire," directed by Dave Main and Mark Dissette, was released in 2008.

"The Outcasts of Poker Flat" has been turned into several films. The 1937 adaptation is a little over an hour long, while the 1952 version is lengthier.

"The Gift of the Magi" has been turned into several films and even an off-Broadway musical. The most recent film was a made-for-TV movie that premiered on the Hallmark Channel in 2010.

Although "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" does not have its own film adaptation, the story was adapted as a scene in the film The Adventures of Mark Twain in which Mark Twain tells the story to some of his famous characters. This film could be useful if you're using Classic American Short Stories and teaching any of Twain's novels.

Your students will love:

  • The variety of the stories. If a student does not connect with one story, he or she may connect with the next.

Students may have problems with:

  • The speed of the lessons. Short story lessons are often not as long as lessons about full-length novels, and, consequently, a teacher must fit more discussion and analysis into a shorter period of class time. Some students may struggle with this change of pace.
  • Some of the language in the older stories, which may make these stories more difficult for students to understand.

More Teacher's Guides to Literature:

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.