These stories feature a character with an important decision to make, or characters who have already made important decisions. Often we’re shown their options, and given some insight into their decision-making process.
Here are some stories that might interest an avid reader, or that might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.
The Guest | Albert Camus
An Arab prisoner is brought to the home of a teacher, Daru, who’s supposed to deliver the man to police headquarters. He doesn’t want to do it, but the Arab’s soldier escort leaves him there anyway.
Eveline | James Joyce
A nineteen-year-old woman is going to leave home with a sailor. She thinks about her life, mulling over the decision she has to make.
The Secret Sharer | Joseph Conrad
The new captain of a ship is taking the night watch when he sees a man swimming to the side of the ship. The man comes aboard. The captain learns the man was under arrest on his own ship and escaped. The captain has to decide what to do with him.
Almost Home | Barry McKinley
Slattery and Tarrant have Ali in custody and are escorting him out of Ireland. He entered the country at seventeen. He posed as a student and did various odd jobs.
Read “Almost Home” (Page 22; trial sign-up needed for full story)
The Lady, or the Tiger? | Frank Stockton
A king has a peculiar method of putting criminals on trial. They’re placed in an arena and allowed to pick between two doors. Behind one is a beautiful woman; behind the other, a hungry tiger.
Happy Event | Nadine Gordimer
Ella is recovering from a medical procedure which she had so she and her husband could take their planned six month vacation. Before they leave they have to deal with the disagreements between their gardener and newly-hired maid; she has an important decision to make.
Old Woman Magoun | Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Magoun has raised her granddaughter, Lily, and kept her sheltered from other people. One day, when she’s fourteen, Lily is sent into town to buy salt, where she encounters her father and an acquaintance of his. They make her uncomfortable. That night, her father goes to Magoun and says she has one week to turn his daughter over to him.
All About Suicide | Luisa Valenzuela
Ismael takes a gun from a desk drawer and fires it. The narrator jumps in time to give us more information.
Boule de Suif | Guy de Maupassant
The Prussian army advances while the French army retreats. Ten passengers are given clearance to board a carriage and leave the city, with the possibility of crossing into England. Among the passengers is Boule de Suif, a prostitute who has to make a moral decision that will affect the whole group.
Daughter of Invention | Julia Alvarez
A Dominican-American mother, Laura, sketches inventions at night before going to bed. Her daughter, Yolanda, writes poetry and is chosen to write a speech that she will read to the class. The family is adjusting to American culture.
The Daffodil Sky | H. E. Bates
A man returns to a town after many years away. He’s looking for Cora Whitehead, a woman he used to see. We hear the story of their relationship and of a decision he made that changed everything irrevocably.
Read here (Page 222, about halfway down)
Silence | Leonid Andreyev
Father Ignatius and his wife try to find out what is wrong with Vera, their daughter, who stays in bed. She has recently returned from St. Petersburg, a trip her father didn’t approve of. Her condition has a powerful effect on everyone.
The Cold Equations | Tom Godwin
An emergency space ship is on course to deliver desperately needed medical supplies. The pilot discovers a stowaway, which is a major problem: emergency ships only have enough fuel to transport a predetermined amount of weight – the vessel, the supplies, and the pilot – to its destination.
A Retrieved Reformation | O. Henry
A safe cracker who’s going straight is faced with a dilemma which could expose his culpability for several unsolved crimes.
Death of a Tsotsi | Alan Paton
Spike is in a reformatory in South Africa. He is a member of the tsotsis, a black gang. Spike gets visits from his mother, sister and her friend, Elizabeth, whom they want him to marry. He also gets visits from his fellow gang members. Spike knows he has to decide which way he will go, and prepares for the consequences.
Shooting an Elephant | George Orwell
The narrator is a British colonial policeman in Burma. He gets a report that there’s an elephant loose, causing damage in the marketplace. While looking for it, he comes across a dead Burmese man, crushed by the elephant. This escalates the situation and he’s not sure if he will be able to avoid shooting the elephant.
Button, Button | Richard Matheson
A hand addressed package is left at the door of Arthur and Norma Lewis. Inside is a contraption with a button on it, and a note saying that Mr. Steward will call on them at 8 PM. He arrives at the appointed time and makes them a startling proposition.
I will try to add more stories about choices and consequences that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle and high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.