Short Stories About Greed

These stories have characters motivated by greed and selfishness, and often show the effect this has on them and others.

These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.

The Gold of Tomas Vargas | Isabel Allende

Tomas Vargas is a miserly, adulterous, and abusive man who is disliked by everyone in town. One day a young woman, one of Tomas’s affairs, comes looking for him. His wife is furious and finally takes a stand against him.

A Funeral | August Strindberg

Some men sitting in a tavern discuss the funeral procession going on outside. A clerk has died. He labored for his mother and sisters. When he told them he was getting married, they made things difficult for him.

Read “A Funeral”

The Necklace | Guy De Maupassant

Mathilde borrows a necklace from a rich friend to wear to a party, but she loses it.

Read here

Man from the South | Roald Dahl

An older man bets a younger man that he can’t light his lighter ten times in a row without missing one. He puts up his Cadillac, but the young man has to risk the pinky of his left hand.

Read here

The Green Leaves | Grace Ogot

African villagers look for a group of cattle thieves. One of the villagers tries to steal from one of the dead thieves.

A Mother | James Joyce

Mrs. Kearney arranges for her daughter to play the piano at a series of concerts. The concerts are poorly attended, and Mrs. Kearney worries that her fee will be withheld.

Read “A Mother”

After the Storm | Ernest Hemingway

A fisherman comes across a sunken ship and tries to plunder its riches.

The Pearl | John Steinbeck

Kino is a poor Mexican pearl diver. Kino’s baby gets stung by a scorpion but he doesn’t have enough money to pay the doctor. He goes diving and finds the “pearl of the world” – the largest pearl he has ever seen. It seems like a great blessing but it brings out the worst in everyone.

This story is a novella.

Read here

The Red-Headed League | Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is visited by Mr. Jabez Wilson, a man with striking red hair. Wilson had responded to an ad in the paper from the Red-Headed League. He was hired to copy from the encyclopedia for four hours a day. One day he showed up for work but the League was gone without explanation.

Read “The Red-Headed League”


I will try to add more stories that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle or high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.