The short stories on this page generally involve interaction between different social classes, or characters that have feelings of class distinction.
These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.
The Social Triangle | O. Henry
Three men get to shake hands with people they really wanted to meet.
The Butler | Roald Dahl
A newly rich man throws dinner parties, but he isn’t satisfied that they’re really working. His butler explains that the wine is the problem, so the man decides to become an expert.
Read “The Butler” (Scroll down)
How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials | Mikhail Saltykov
Two life-long white collar government workers find themselves transported to a deserted island. Their skills of keeping records and writing reports prove useless in their new environment. They realize that if they could just find a peasant he could look after everything.
Magic | Katherine Anne Porter
A maid tells her employer the story of a woman who worked in a brothel. She quarreled bitterly with the madam, and said she was leaving, which led to a physical confrontation.
The Richest Man | Ha Jin
Li Wan, a doctor, is the richest man in town. He is a miser and widely disliked. During China’s Cultural Revolution he is accused of destroying a likeness of Chairman Mao. His fortunes change.
Yermolai and the Miller’s Wife | Ivan Turgenev
The narrator and Yermolai go out hunting. They seek shelter at a miller’s home, and Yermolai seems to know the miller’s wife.
The Doll’s House | Katherine Mansfield
The Burnell children are given a beautiful doll house as a gift. They are allowed to bring their classmates to see it, so they choose who gets to come to their house.
The Whore’s Child | Richard Russo
The narrator is the professor of a university fiction writing class. An elderly nun who lives nearby, Sister Ursula, shows up in class although she has neither registered nor completed the prerequisite courses. She writes her memoir, beginning with her childhood in a Belgian convent. Her mother was a prostitute, so she becomes known as the whore’s child and is mistreated due to her low social status.
Sacre du Printemps | Ludwig Bemelmans
Emil kratzig lives in a society heavily regimented by the government, with many class distinctions in place for the citizens.
Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen | O. Henry
An older, upper-class man has a tradition of treating a local destitute man to a hearty Thanksgiving meal. One year, the poor man arrives at their meeting place in a state that puts their tradition in jeopardy.
Someone to Talk To | Deborah Eisenberg
Aaron Shapiro, a concert pianist, goes to Latin America to perform a concert. He learns that the show organizers are affiliated with the military government that is oppressing the native population.
Young Archimedes | Aldous Huxley
A young English couple rent a house in Italy because it has a great view, and a local peasant boy, Guido, makes an excellent playmate for their own son. Guido is a gifted child, with an affinity for music, and a natural understanding of mathematics. The landlady wants to adopt Guido to mold him and make money from his talents.
Read “Young Archimedes” (Page 2222, Ctl + F the title works best)
Bella Fleace Gave a Party | Evelyn Waugh
An elderly, wellborn woman of little means comes into some money, decides to throw a big party, and puts careful thought into the invitation list.
A Lickpenny Lover | O. Henry
A wealthy aristocrat tries to woo a ditsy salesgirl.
Who Made Yellow Roses Yellow? | John Updike
Fred Platt, from a family with old money, wants to get a job without his father’s help. He calls a college friend who’s now an executive at a chemical company to ask about a job.
Vengeful Creditor | Chinua Achebe
The African government is now offering free primary education, causing a lot of servants and lowly paid workers to return to school. The Emenikes, educated and affluent, are upset when they lose some servants, including their nurse. Things turn around for them when the government suspends the free program due to higher than expected enrollment.
Jeeves Takes Charge | P. G. Wodehouse
Bertie Wooster, an idle and upper-class man, tells the story of how he hired his butler, Jeeves, and his first acts in his service. Bertie’s fiancée is concerned about a memoir that could prove scandalous, so she asks him to help her get rid of it. Before Bertie leaves to help his fiancee he meets Jeeves and hires him on the spot.
Swaddling Clothes | Yukio Mishima
Toshiko and her husband had hired a nurse. She gave birth to an illegitimate child in their house; they were unaware of the pregnancy until the birth. The situation has a strong effect on her, making her think about modernization and class differences.
Everything That Rises Must Converge | Flannery O’Connor
Julian, a young man, accompanies his mother on a bus ride. It is the 1960’s South, and she doesn’t like riding alone because of integration. She is poor but is proud that she comes from a once prosperous pre-Civil War family. She also brags about her son to those nearby.
The Stationmaster | Alexander Pushkin
The stationmaster is a member of the fourteenth rank – the lowest rank among government workers. He has a beautiful daughter, Dunia. The narrator meets the stationmaster during his travels. When the narrator returns years later he asks about the stationmaster and his daughter.
The Displaced Person | Flannery O’Connor
A Polish refugee and his family arrive at Mrs. McIntyre’s farm to work for her. The man, Mr. Guizac, proves to be an industrious and efficient worker. The Shortley’s, a couple who also work on the farm, become concerned about their position. Mrs. McIntyre rules over her little domain, managing her affairs to give herself the most profit.
The Nose | Nikolai Gogol
A barber, Ivan, cuts into a loaf of freshly baked bread only to find a nose inside. He recognizes the nose as belonging to a regular customer of his, Platon. Fearing he will be in trouble, Ivan thinks about how to get rid of the nose. Meanwhile, Platon wakes up in his home and the absurdities continue.
Brickdust Row | O. Henry
Blinker is a wealthy landowner and landlord. He decides to go to Coney Island. On the ferry ride, he meets Florence, a young working-class woman.
Wild Plums | Grace Stone Coates
A young girl is curious about wild plums and wants to go pick them. She is invited by the Slumps, a poor neighbor family, but her mother won’t allow her to go.
The Christmas Tree and the Wedding | Fyodor Dostoevsky
At a New Year’s children’s ball, a guest tries to get into the good graces of the family of a young girl who is said to have a large dowry. He fawns over her and tries to oust her young lower-class playmate.
Barcelona | Alice Adams
An American couple in Barcelona is out on the street when a man snatches the wife’s purse. Her husband pursues the thief.
A Shameful Affair | Kate Chopin
Mildred Orme, a young woman, is staying at an acquaintances country house. She spends her days sitting on the front porch, reading. One day as the farmhands are coming in for lunch, one of her papers blows off the railing. A young man hands it to her; he stays on her mind in the coming days.
The Peasant Marey | Fyodor Dostoevsky
The narrator, a noble, remembers an incident from his childhood. While walking in the woods, he heard someone shouting a warning about a wolf. He ran off in a panic, until he reached a peasant man, Marey.
The Garden-Party | Katherine Mansfield
The Sheridans, an upper-class family, are making preparations for a garden party. Before it starts, they hear that a working-class neighbor has just died.
Fat and Thin | Anton Chekhov
Two men – schoolmates as boys – meet unexpectedly at a train station and are delighted to see each other. They talk about their lives; one bit of information changes the thin man’s view of his old friend.
Jeannot and Colin | Voltaire
Jeannot and Colin are close friends in childhood. One day Jeannot receives a fancy coat and is taken away to a prosperous life – his father has had a business success. Colin is downcast. Jeannot is thrown into the education of a wealthy boy, which, suspiciously, doesn’t involve learning much.
The House Behind | Lydia Davis
There is a house in front with spacious apartments inhabited by people with higher incomes, and a house behind with more cramped apartments and lower income residents. The narrator, who lives in the house behind, tells the story of a murder that happened in the courtyard a year ago.
This story is a parable for the resentment that can arise from class differences.
See also: Disorder and Early Sorrow (Change), Home (Family), Boule de Suif (Choice), The Semplica-Girl Diaries (Fantasy|Sci-Fi)
I will try to add more stories about class 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.