Frank Stockton


A picture of the author Frank Stockton

Frank Stockton (1854 - 1902) was an American writer and humorist, best known for his allegorical fairy tales for all ages. Rather than moralizing, he tended to poke fun at qualities like greed, violence, and abuse of power. The Lady, or the Tiger?, his most famous story (published in 1882), offers a compelling choice for the reader because there is no right answer. It is a fascinating illustration of the conflict between determinism and free-will, an increasingly popular choice for middle school language arts teachers to include in their persuasive writing lessons. His story, The Griffin and the Minor Canon (1885) received renewed interest in 1963, with an edition illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Stockton also offers a different storytelling style, a more subtle element of surprise, as in The Widow's Cruise, a slow-paced conversation between widows and visiting seafaring men, in which one widow tells the most dramatic sea story of all.

Stockton was raised in Philadelphia, son of a minister who discouraged the young Stockton's writing career (this explains his later tendency to avoid telling overt morality tales). He moved to New Jersey, became an accomplished wood engraver, before beginning his writing career after his father's death. He moved back to Philadelphia to write stories for his brother's newspaper, and published his first fairy tale, Ting-a-ling (1867) in The Riverside Magazine. Stockton's first collection of short stories was published in 1870.

Though Stockton doesn't have the name recognition of many American authors featured at this site, his works are slowly being discovered for their engaging style delivering compelling lessons implicitly, rather than explicitly. No wonder middle school teachers enjoy teaching Stockton!

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