Short Stories About Change

The characters in these stories experience change in various ways – physically, psychologically, emotionally, and in their environment.

See also Coming of Age

The Metamorphosis | Franz Kafka

A man wakes up one morning to find he’s been transformed into a giant insect-like creature.

After this impossible opening, this novella-length story proceeds normally.

Read here

The Unrest Cure | Saki

A man and his wife dislike any change in their regular routine. After telling a stranger about this on a train, he recommends an “unrest cure”, where they would do something completely unusual for a while. Their life soon gets thrown into chaos.

Read here

Disorder and Early Sorrow | Thomas Mann

Professor Cornelius’s oldest children plan and throw a party for their friends. Economic times are difficult, but everyone tries to keep up good appearances. The professor is concerned about things that have changed such as his children, his profession, and art and the theater.

This is a novella-length story.

Read here

The Rememberer | Aimee Bender

A man experiences rapid, reverse evolution. He goes from man to ape to sea turtle, losing about a million years a day.

Read here

The Secret Lion | Alberto Alvaro Rios

Two twelve-year-old boys start junior high school, and explore the land around their Arizona country homes, even though they’re not supposed to.

Read “The Secret Lion”

The Last Lesson | Alphonse Daudet

Near the end of the Franco-Prussian War, a schoolboy gets his last lesson in French because the Prussian authorities have outlawed teaching French in schools.

Read here

The Sacrificial Egg | Chinua Achebe

Julius Obi is at work but there’s nothing to do. The marketplace is deserted due to a smallpox outbreak.

Read here

The Friday Everything Changed | Anne Hart

In a small town classroom, a girl challenges a local tradition that is only carried out by the boys.

Read here

Aftermath | Mary Yukari Waters

Japan is becoming Americanized following its defeat in WW II. Makiko, a widow, worries that her son will forget his heritage and his father.

Axolotl | Julio Cortazar

A man goes to a zoo aquarium and stands for hours watching the axolotls (a larval salamander). He says he has become one of them. He explains how this transformation took place.

Read “Axolotl”

The Ring | Isak Dinesen

Sigismund and Lovisa are young newlyweds who have overcome differences in class and wealth to be together. Sigismund is a farmer. There is a sheep thief in the area that was caught in the act a few days prior, leading him to kill a man. Sigismund and Lovisa have a different view of the criminal.

Read “The Ring”

The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat | Saki

Jocantha Bessbury is a comfortable and contented wife. She suspects that only her cat, Attab, is more contented than herself. Wanting to spread good cheer, Jocantha decides to buy theatre tickets and give them away to a shop girl who couldn’t afford them on her own. Meanwhile, the cat goes about his usual routine.

Read here

The Sky is Gray | Ernest Gaines

James is an eight-year-old black boy in the 1930’s South. He has a bad toothache but didn’t tell his mother about it, not wanting to be a crybaby and knowing they can’t afford to have it pulled. After he tries  aspirin and a prayer cure with his aunt’s help, without success, his mother discovers the problem.

Rip Van Winkle | Washington Irving

Rip Van Winkle is lazy at home but helpful to, and well-liked by, his neighbors. He’s out in the mountains one day to get away from things. With night approaching, he starts for home but meets up with a group of men. He has something to drink and goes to sleep, which changes everything.

Read “Rip Van Winkle”

Residents and Transients | Bobbie Ann Mason

Mary is married and lives in Kentucky. She is in her parents place, selling it for them in their absence. Her husband is in Louisville, looking for a home for them. Mary has taken a lover and isn’t sure if she wants to leave.

Roselily | Alice Walker

Roselily, an unmarried woman with three children, is getting married. She thinks about how her life will change by marrying a member of the Nation of Islam and moving to Chicago. She doesn’t know a lot about her fiancée or his religion, but she’s willing to change her life for her children’s sake.

Read here

The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky | Stephen Crane

Jack Potter is returning from San Antonio with his new bride. He’s the marshal of Yellow Sky, respected in the town, and he’s wondering how everyone will react to this change. Meanwhile, in Yellow Sky, a trouble-maker, Scratchy Wilson, is on one of his rampages.

Read here

Friend of My Youth | Alice Munro

The narrator recounts the life of Flora Grieves. She lived on a farm with her sister, Ellie, and her brother-in-law, Robert. She tells us how the house and work was divided, how Ellie and Robert came to be married, and how Flora responded to the many changes in her life.

Read here (scroll down)

To Set Our House in Order | Margaret Laurence

Beth has to go to the hospital two weeks before her due date. Her husband, Ewen, is worried, as is her daughter Vanessa. Her mother-in-law, Grandmother MacLeod, is stoically detached. Ewen and his motehr argue about getting some help for the house. Vanessa relates her feelings during the episode, and talks about the changes her grandmother has lived thru.

Split Cherry Tree | Jesse Stuart

A student is held after school to work off the $1 debt he owes for his part in the splitting of a cherry tree. When he gets home late, his father is upset that he has had to do the farm work by himself. He is especially upset that the boys with more money simply paid and don’t have to work off the debt. He decides to pay Professor Herbert a visit to settle the matter.

Read “Split Cherry Tree”

The Shining Houses | Alice Munro

Mrs. Fullerton has lived in the same house for over forty years. She is standoffish with her neighbors. She sells eggs and is self-sufficient. Her house is old and ill-kept. Newer houses are being built around it, and her neighbors want her house renovated or torn down.

Read “The Shining Houses”

Graveyard Day | Bobbie Ann Mason

Waldeen is divorced from Joe Murdock, the father of her ten-year-old daughter, Holly. Joe McClain spends a lot of time with them and wants to marry Waldeen. She is uncertain and finds the dynamics of shifting family relationships confusing.

Broken Routine | Jeffrey Archer

Septimus is a claims adjuster at an insurance company. He maintains a strict daily routine in his work and home life. One day he is asked to stay a little late, which turns out to be very disruptive for him.

Read “Broken Routine”

Beyond the Bayou | Kate Chopin

An African-American woman, La Folle, was frightened “out of her senses” as a child. As a result, she won’t cross an imaginary line in her area; she has never been beyond the bayou.

Read “Beyond the Bayou”

The Wave | Liam O’Flaherty

A two hundred foot high cliff has developed a cavern at its base from “battling” for thousands of years with the incoming waves. Waves continue to crash in, and high tide is approaching.

This story has no human or animal characters. The “characters” are the cliff and the waves.

Read “The Wave”

Foxes | Timothy Findley

Morris Glendenning, a reclusive communications expert, is going to visit the Royal Ontario Museum for some research. He had chanced upon a picture of a Japanese theatre mask called Fox, which was being held by the museum. He became fascinated with it.

Read “Foxes”

Neighbours | Tim Winton

A young Australian couple moves into a neighbourhood with many European migrants. The husband stays home and writes his thesis. The wife works. It takes them a while to adjust to the neighbourhood noise and interactions.

Read “Neighbours”

The Beautiful Thing | Kit De Waal

The narrator’s father leaves Antigua to work in America and, later, to start again in England. He works hard and experiences some racism as he establishes himself.

Read “The Beautiful Thing”