“Life in the Iron-Mills” by Rebecca Harding-Davis:
On the one hand, I loathe this story because it is so bleak, but on the other hand, this story is not only one of the best examples of Realism and industrialism in American literature, but it also has a lot to say about the nature of art, the nature of artists, and where and how art comes from, and also manages to cover the Nature of Humanity 101.
“Transcendental Wild Oats” by Louisa May Alcott:
I feel like the audience’s reaction was probably “HAHA THIS IS HILARIOUS LOOK AT THESE DUMB HIPPIES” but Alcott was like “No seriously this is way too real and needs to stop.” Sister Hope for the Iron Throne?
“A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett:
I want to eat Jewett’s words right up. This story is surprisingly magical but in a “Let’s hunt magic down and kill it” sort of way.
“A New England Nun” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman:
This is an odd one, about how promises can become cages and the things we think are cages are actually freedoms. I don’t know. I can never decide if I feel bad for Louisa or envious of her.
“The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:
I had to read this one for school several times but it was never a chore. This story is terrifying in a quiet, escalating way. I love the juxtaposition between the freedom the character feels at the end and the fact that she’s more trapped than ever before. Perfect.
“The Storm” by Kate Chopin:
Oh, Kate. I can always count on you for socially heretical sexy adventures in a rainstorm.
“The Angel at the Grave” by Edith Wharton:
Another story where I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel hopeful or not at the ending. Lots of sacrifice on the protagonist’s part ends with ambiguous pay-off. Or was she really sacrificing anything? I CAN’T DECIDE.
“Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather:
Paul takes the line “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women in it merely players” a little TOO SERIOUSLY. I love how it both upholds and condemns the maxim “Money can’t buy happiness.”
“The Stones of the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson:
A story about passing for what you are not and getting some of what you want but never WHAT YOU NEED.
“A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell:
One of my favorite short stories of all time. A man has died and while the male officials investigate, their wives discuss the matter. FLAWLESS. PERFECT. Please read it.
“Smoke” by Djuna Barnes:
I didn’t really get it but I expect that’s my own fault and not the story’s.
“Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston:
I really struggle with reading dialects, but this was a good suspenseful story with a twist and some really good images. Bad marriages and bad snakes. SNAKES, MAN.
“Sanctuary” by Nella Larsen:
This story gave me chills all over my body. Sometimes you think you’re safe and you realize you’ve picked the absolute worst place to hide ever. This was definitely one of my favorites.