The thought-provoking, classroom-friendly short stories in Classic American Short Stories 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 also 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”).

Summary of Classic American Short Stories

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Length: 168 pages
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-12

Classic American Short Stories is a collection of short stories by some of the best writers of American literature. This Prestwick House 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

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

What Your Students Will Love About Classic American Short Stories

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

Potential Student Struggles With Classic American Short Stories

  • 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.

Learning Objectives for Classic American Short Stories

  • Analyze the use of literary conventions and devices to develop character and point of view in the short stories.
  • Recognize the use of allegory within a short story.
  • Discuss the central ideas of a short story and relate them to students’ own experiences and to the world.
  • Understand the use of foreshadowing, flashbacks, and non-sequential time order within a short story.
  • Explain the use of figurative language and rhetorical techniques within the text and how they function.
  • Identify the main characters within a short story, and explain their purpose.

Literary Elements in Classic American Short Stories

  • Allegory
  • Character
  • Dialogue
  • Foreshadowing
  • Flashback
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor
  • Naturalism
  • Symbolism
  • Vernacular
  • Moral
  • And more!

Related Works

Similar anthologies offered by Prestwick House:

Other Resources for Classic American Short Stories

  • "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. Watch the trailer here.
  • "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. Watch the full 1937 film here.
  • "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. Watch the movie trailer here.
  • 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 or teaching any of Twain's novels.
  • "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.
  • Yale University's "Elements of the Short Story" Unit

Order Classic American Short Stories Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
Classic American Short Stories Paperback Student Edition
Classic American Short Stories Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set

This free guide was originally posted in September 2015. It has been updated as of May 2020.