Literary Analysis of the Short Story "Scarlet Stocking"

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The short story ‘Scarlet Stocking’ by Louisa May Alcott features a young man named Harry Lennox who has been away for five years. He is back, visiting his sister, Kate, who has become friends with Belle Morgan. The three-chapter short story presents a myriad of literary devices that the author uses to develop themes and characters in the story. The aim of this essay is to conduct a literary analysis of the story, citing evidence from various instances. Precisely, the essay evaluates the effectiveness of imagery, character development, irony, metaphors and similes, and plot in determining the achievement of the author developing this short story.

The use of imagery in any short story aims at creating a picture in the mind of the reader. Authors this literary device to make the reader fits into the context of the story (Gardner, 2013). Belle Morgan, Kate’s best friend, is seemingly fond of dressing in scarlet stocking. The author uses imagery to create a picture in the reader’s mind when describing Belle Morgan and her dressing style. By saying that ‘A brisk, blithe-faced girl passed in a grey walking suit with a distracting pair of high-heeled boots and glimpses of scarlet at the ankle,’ the authors sets the mind of the reader on how Belle Morgan was dressed (Allcott, n.d., 2). Harry Lennox’s feelings for Belle Morgan can best be described by his attraction to her dressing style. The use of imagery in this story achieves its purpose, given that the main intention of the author is to explain to the reader how much Harry was attracted to Belle.

The success of any short or long story depends on the author’s approach to character development. The main protagonists in the play are Belle Morgan and Harry Lennox. Initially, Kate warns Harry against acting fast on his feelings for Belle when she advises him ‘don’t try to be witty or sarcastic of her, for she will beat you at that’ to imply that Belle Morgan is an intelligent character that does not entertain any form of nonsense (Allcott, n.d., 2-3) Her mindset cannot be easily manipulated by Harry, despite him being attracted to her. Kate remains sarcastic of Harry’s purported love for Belle Morgan. She even makes fun of incidents when Belle Morgan could pass by. The author’s choice and development of both major and minor characters makes the reader to understand the flow of the story.

Through the plot of the story, the author makes use of irony at various instances. In characterizing Belle Morgan, the reader is in dilemma on whether to categorize her as smart or just cold. Kate Morgan warns her brother against being witty with Miss Morgan because she would beat him at that. As the story proceeds, however, Kate opens up to Harry and describes Miss Morgan, the doctor’s daughter, as person who ‘does and says what she likes, is very blunt and honest, has principles and ideas of her own…’ to mean that Belle Morgan is a self-centered person (Allcott, n.d., 4). She has very little interest in people, given that she runs out of words on what to tell them.  The conflicting characterization even confuses Harry more as he yearns to meet her one day.

The use of metaphors and similes are important in further developing the literary element of imagery. These figurative devices are necessary because they create a picture in the mind of the reader. At times, the image might be exaggerated. Belle Morgan has an indifferent attitude towards Harry. Kate tells Harry that Miss Belle had met him at one time in church, but was quite judgmental of him. She tells Harry that Miss Morgan ‘…she wasn’t fond of peacocks’ to mean that she was not really impressed to the dressing mode and the manner in which Harry Lennox carried himself out (Allcott, n.d.). Harry seems to be in his own world as far as first impression and elegance is concerned. Kate admits that he is slowly losing the important aspects of fashion, impression and good looks. The metaphorical reference of Harry as a peacock by Miss Morgan suggests that she feels quite indifferent, or at least not impressed by how Harry presents himself in public. Kate has to explain this to Harry to make him understand what Miss Morgan would expect if they were to meet at some point.

A comparative literary comparison also comes in the form of similes. Belle has a preference for men who stand up and fight for their country. Set in the ages of conflicts and wars, the short story portrays a period in which heroes were determined by their ability and willingness to fight for their country. Filled with the enthusiasm to see his friend again, Belle waits anxiously to see him return. The author uses similes to describe the moment in which Belle was troubled by saying ‘Belle looked down upon the living stream that flowed by like a broad river with a steely glitter above the blue’ (Allcott, n.d) to picture the mood on her face when she saw Harry’s condition. Indeed, her strict character and need for a heroic man had led Harry to the bullet. Miss Belle’s guilt could not let her rest as her ‘unworthy substitute’ did not really make it to kiss her.

In conclusion, the short story includes multiple literary devices and styles which the author uses to convey special messages. The use of imagery, character development, similes and metaphors, and development of the plot makes the reader understand every aspect of the story from the beginning to the end. Louisa May Alcott’s proper use of these literary devices makes her story successful in terms of effectiveness and development of major themes and characters. The story’s setting is best presented through the application of imagery in the form of vivid description. Set in the war era, most women, including Belle Morgan, grew fond of men who actively took part in the battle. It was considered a heroic act to stand up and fight for a country. This way, the ladies would consider their men to be strong and heroic.


Allcott, L.M. (n.d.). Classic Short Stories; Scarlet Stockings. Retrieved from

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Gardner, J. (2013). The art of fiction: Notes on craft for young writers. New York: Vintage Books.

November 24, 2023



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