Many of us struggle to cope with the pressure of university life. Our mood ranges from one extreme to another everyday. Reading can be therapeutic for many people, and the books chosen may help readers ease them in and out of their many moods.
According to psychologists from the University of Sussex, that reading reduced stress levels the most, that is by 68%, compared to other activities like listening to music or taking a walk.
University students may not have always enough time to kick-back and enjoy a novel especially during exam or assignment seasons. Short stories are a good solution to keep book-lovers like me from eating up too much of study time. Short stories are concise, vivid, and the time it takes to get through one of them is a disciplined way to keep me from taking too long of a break.
Here are some recommendations for short stories that may go hand-in-hand with some of your emotions in the moment.
1. Stress – Tyres by Adam Thorpe
When you feel like you need a good cry after a long day of classes with the anxiety of looming deadlines, Adam Thorpe’s romantic tale will get your tear taps flowing.
The story takes place during German occupation in France. A young man whose father owned a tyre shop fell in love with a girl that cycled past the shop daily. After establishing a romantic relationship, the protagonist gets mixed up with a customer/German officer and sabotages the repairs of his car tyres. There is an accident, killing the officer and the main character’s lover who had been in the car too.
Tyres revolves around the themes of sorrow, guilt, love and loyalty. The way that the narrator keeps his lover in his memory twenty-two years after her death is a bittersweet way of showing a man’s vulnerability and loneliness without his lover.
2. Loneliness – Sredni Vashtar by Saki
To compensate for loneliness, some people develop bad habits due to a lack of emotional warmth. Loneliness often leads to rumination of negative thoughts, related to our beliefs about ourselves and beliefs about others.
Sredni Vashtar (by Saki) opens your eyes to the negative extreme that a person may go to when they are secluded, forming negative perceptions on their own. That being said, the theme of the story revolves around the evil desires of mankind.
It is the story of a terminally ill child who is tormented by his older cousin/legal guardian. He seeks peace and pleasure in covertly worshipping a god of his own creation (a polecat ferret) called Sredni Vashtar in a garden shed. He prays and asks the polecat ferret of one thing. At the end of the story, his dark wish is granted.
While you can probably empathize with the struggles of protagonist, Saki explores the twisted mind of one who is completely alone in the world. Perhaps this story may motivate you to go out and mingle a little bit.
3. Depression – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman
Every 1 in 5 university students suffer with depression. This could be caused by the overwhelming pressure to make new friends, being exposed to new cultures and environments, etc. However, no one really knows when and who is going through this.
If you are going through depression, you would be able to empathize with the woman in this story. Depression is considered to be a ‘taboo’, a ‘temporary phase’ or a ‘figment of imagination’ in conservative societies, like communities in Malaysia. Consequently, you may feel embarrassed to open up about your struggles, fearing negative judgement.
The woman in the short story expresses herself in her diary. Her husband confines her in a room in a vacation house where she secretly writes in detail about her struggles. She is judged by her husband for having spiraling anxieties about the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom. In time, she starts to visualize a woman trapped in between the patterns of the wallpaper. The woman in the wallpaper is a symbol of herself being trapped within her illness, as well as the oppression she faces as a woman in her time, and the judgement that she faces because of her depression.
4. Trapped – The Prison by Bernard Malamud
At times, university students feel trapped by aspects of their life. This could include being in a course that’s been forced upon students by their parents, which consequently cause students to struggle, or being trapped in toxic friendships or relationships.
The Prison is relatable as it explores the themes of freedom, paralysis, helplessness and control. The protagonist is a former criminal, now trapped within a loveless marriage, and working meaninglessly in his in-laws candy store, as a result of his actions.
When he sees a little girl stealing candy from the store, he tries to advise her against it, fearing her life may turn out similar to his, but his efforts are trampled on. However, he chooses to free himself of his marriage when he stands up to his controlling wife.
5. Christmas – The Gift of Magi by O. Henry
With Christmas just around the corner, some of us might be scrambling together every nook and cranny to afford the perfect gift for our loved ones.
O. Henry explores the extents that people would go to in order to make their loved ones happy, which makes The Gift of Magi touching to readers. It centers around the themes of sacrifice, love, foolishness and wisdom. It takes place during the Christmas season when two lovers, both on the brink of poverty, sell their most prized possessions to buy each other a present. While the two lovers may have been foolish in giving up what they have, the protagonist concludes that the couple are also wise because their gifts are gifts of love, and those who give out of love and self-sacrifice are truly wise because they know the value of self-giving love
Written by Christina Hannah Bruno