Many authors have created dozens of timeless, short stories throughout the years that include a huge number of relatable themes and messages. These themes are practical for any readers, whether they are old or young. Many of the stories were written a long time ago and take place in different periods. Overall, they still have extremely helpful messages for contemporary readers. It is unknown to many people that some of the greatest life lessons can be found in many short stories from the 19th century, including stories such as “The Necklace,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “The Lady, or the Tiger?”
“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant shows readers that honesty can lead to better things and that wealth is not always the most important thing.
This story was published in 1884 and tells of a lady named Mathilde Loisel, who yearns for wealth. As the author explains, “She suffered endlessly, feeling born for every delicacy and luxury” (Guy de Maupassant 1).
She suffers “from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains” (1). She is invited to a party, but she does not have the proper attire. She borrows a few items from a friend, including an extravagant, costly necklace. As she is leaving the party, she loses the necklace, which leads her to buy her friend another necklace; however, what she does not realize is that the necklace she has borrowed is only a fake necklace. By the time she becomes aware of this, she has spent years paying off the necklace that she had personally bought.
It would have made her life much easier if she had been honest with her friend in the first place. Even today people who choose dishonesty end up with terrible, unnecessary outcomes. The author shows her prideful selfishness when she explains that “the only things she loved” were her material possessions (1). Wealth may lead some to happy lives, but not everyone.
In a very different story, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” unexpectedly demonstrates the idea of freedom. Louise Mallard, the protagonist, is suddenly left to deal with the unanticipated death of her husband. At first, she is sad, as most would expect. As Chopin says, Mallard “did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance” (Chopin 1). Rather than grieving and being extremely heartbroken, she is strangely happy to be, as she says, “Free, free, free” (2). Most people take a long time to get over things, especially the loss of a family member. This story provides a different look at an already terrible situation. It is unlikely for anyone to react in such away. It could be seen as selfish. Instead of thinking about how others might feel about the loss, she instantly discovers the freedom she will have. Louise Mallard is thinking these happy thoughts about freedom when her very much alive husband walks in, and she dies of a heart attack due to the surprise that he is still alive. The twist ending to this story shows readers that it does not pay to be so focused on yourself, rather than on others around you.
In another, more abstract story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?,” author, Frank R. Stockton, shows how jealousy can lead to people making foolish decisions that may be right or wrong. Choosing the path between easy and right can sometimes be quite challenging for people. As an example, for students, it may be easy for someone to copy off someone else’s homework, but they know in their hearts that what they are doing is not the right thing. The same is true in this story in which a character is faced with an intense choice, called, “The secret of the doors” (Stockton 3), a choice of whether to make the character’s true love marry someone else or be eaten by a tiger. The right choice would not be death, but it could be easy to choose death rather than having to go through with watching him marry someone else. Readers will never know which important choice this character chooses. The reader may be left with the feeling that the obvious decision, upon closer inspection, is not obvious at all. As the author says, “Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights of anguished deliberation” (5), and we are left to wonder.
All of these outdated, yet intriguing, stories grab the reader’s attention through their inspiring topics. They may have been written a long time ago, but they provide many important lessons that can change the way that people live their lives. Jealousy, decisions, pride, and honesty are common, important themes in 19th-century stories, and they represent the same problems facing people today. Most younger people probably do not realize the value of reading these older stories, but some things never change.