Analyzing a short story is not the same as analyzing a novel, even if both come from the same author. A wise college student will be struck with the familiar themes, which are close to the author. However, the rule doesn't apply to all writers. There are certain things to consider in a particular genre, which might be different from another.
For instance, Anton Chekhov's short stories are an accurate depiction of human nature, follies in particular. A bigger picture doesn't say something about a particular place, but it can allude to a certain kind of people. ("The Seagull" is a play, but Chekhov has a few things to say about artists in general.) On the other hand, Rosemary Timperley's short ghost stories include great detail about the setting. There won't be much to tell about the distraught characters, and the revelation about the characters will be seen on the final page. It doesn't happen often, though. A ghost story (or horror) is most effective when less is told. There's fear in the certainty, which translates into the big screen. (Dario Argento's "Suspiria" is the probably the best illustration, as the director would make the most of the loud colors and unsettling music.) This is not a reason for concern, though.
A short story can be several pages long, which is usually the shortest, and it could be not more than twenty pages (in a compilation of short stories by a particular author). There's no excuse not to read it in its entirety, but reading it again (and again) can take up your precious time. If you know how to read the novel, then you should be able to know how to write an essay on a short story.
Fast Paper Writing: 3 Things to Look Out For
The first page (or the first few pages). Novelists don't think of a memorable opening line to impress their readers. It's the gist of the novel. A sharp (college) student will be able to think of details, and where to find it. This doesn't apply to a short story, as the first page (or first few pages) describe a setting or character. If you've read too many short stories, then you should know what to expect on the next pages (or the rest of the story) after the first few pages. It's a guess, which you might be wrong. It will be better to have a notepad beside you, as you jot down your initial thoughts. If you have a new opinion later, then you can compare it. And then make your own argument.
Pay attention to the emotions. This is the foundation of ghost stories, as the other elements are shrouded in mystery. Consider "Dracula's Guest", which was published as a short story along with Bram Stoker's short tales. (It turned out to be a prelude to "Dracula", but it was better off as separated from the novel.) The Englishman's experience in Munich, which happened during Walpurgis Night, revolved around fear of a shadowy place not far the place he would stay for the night. Many readers overlook this aspect of the short story, as they try too hard to follow the plot. Some stories are defined by such feelings, which tells what it's all about. If you're skeptical about it, then remember that writers can relate to it, if not feel strongly about such things.
The final page doesn't conclude the story. If you guess an open ending, then you might think about a career in authorship. Edgar Allan Poe's Gothic (short) stories may come to a horrific end, but it will prompt readers to go back to where they start. Poe may not be high as a kite when he penned his eerie tales, but there was no doubt about the length of time he spent on brooding such topics. Was he teasing his readers? This could be a subjective topic, which would result to varied responses. A particular response doesn't suggest insanity, though. Let's look at the works of Guy de Maupassant, who was credited with popularizing the genre. The Frenchman's stories would reveal the state of Normandy, where he grew up, and how the seemingly laidback atmosphere would shape the thoughts and feelings of inhabitants. Some students could be mistaken of analyzing the characters, as the final page would suggest that Normandy might be too much to the author. Why did he end up in a mental asylum? Go back to the middle of one of his tales.
Things to Never Forget
Before you start reading the short story, it will be best to read the author's biography. The background will give you a hint on what information you'll need to justify your arguments. It's not an excuse not to read the tale in its entirety, though.
Try to relate to the short story, as you compare the author's time with yours. You might be surprised to find some similarities, but be precise as possible. (Some Gothic tales may be a product of a wild imagination.)
You're doing an exercise in literary criticism, so don't be hesitant to do a comparison of two or more authors. You're expected to compare the works of a particular author, but there's no need to worry about not choosing this particular path. Choose the one you know the most, where you can be persuasive in your argument(s).