A character can have a psychological journey – and many of these stories contain one – but generally the selections here will also contain some sort of physical journey.
These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.
Paul’s Case | Willa Cather
Paul gets suspended from his Pittsburgh High School. His father wants him to be a responsible wage-earning family man when he grows up, but Paul is drawn to a life of wealth and glamour, so he decides to go to New York.
Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry | Elizabeth McCracken
Aunt Helen Beck, a woman in her eighties, outspoken and eccentric, travels around to all her relative’s homes to stay for a while.
The Train | Flannery O’Connor
Haze, nineteen, is travelling by train to Taulkinham. The porter reminds him strongly of a man he used to know; he might even be the man’s son. He tries to find a way to talk to him.
Falling in Love | Sandra Birdsell
Lureen’s boyfriend leaves her as he’s done several times before. She tries to go back to her family by bus, but misses her connection, and has to walk thirty miles in the heat.
A Worn Path | Eudora Welty
An elderly African-American woman, Phoenix Jackson, walks through the Mississippi forest to get into town. She encounters many obstacles along the way.
Blue Winds Dancing | Tom Whitecloud
A young Indian-American man, lonely and disillusioned with school, leaves for home to be with his own people again.
The Swimmer | John Cheever
While relaxing at a friend’s pool, an affluent man decides to make his way home by swimming the length of the pools in his neighborhood.
The Furnished Room | O. Henry
A young man searches boarding houses looking for the woman he loves, a small-town girl trying to break in to show business.
Greyhound People | Alice Adams
The narrator boards a greyhound express bus to San Francisco with the feeling that she’s in the wrong place. On the way, a man angrily demands her seat, a woman tells a boy to be quiet and the boy’s mother confronts her, she listens to conversations, and has other interactions.
The Ultimate Safari | Nadine Gordimer
The narrator, a young girl, tells us that her mother and father left one day and never came back. Her village has been targeted by bandits who have taken everything. Fearing for their lives, the girl and her extended family set out on a long and difficult trek through South Africa to a refugee camp.
What I Have Been Doing Lately | Jamaica Kincaid
An unidentified and unnamed narrator answers the door but doesn’t find anyone there. After having a look around, the narrator goes on a dreamlike walk.
The Artificial Nigger | Flannery O’Connor
Mr. Head takes his ten-year-old grandson, Nelson, on a trip into the city. He wants to teach Nelson that the city isn’t a great place, so he will be content to live his life in the country.
Stalking | Joyce Carol Oates
A thirteen-year-old girl, Gretchen, is pursuing her Invisible Adversary through the suburbs. She follows it through fields and across roads, and eventually into a shopping center.
Tears of Autumn | Yoshiko Uchida
Hana Omiya is on a ship going from Japan to the United States. She is seasick and nervous; she has some regret about the trip. She’s going to America to marry a man she has never met.
The Ugliest Pilgrim | Doris Betts
Violet Karl is traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma to get healed by a televangelist – she was struck by an axe head as a child which disfigured her face. As she travels by bus, she meets several people who react to her in different ways.
The Facts of Life | Somerset Maugham
Nicky Garnet is a well liked young man who’s never given his parents any trouble. An opportunity arises for him to play in a tennis tournament in Monte Carlo. Nicky’s father doesn’t want him to go unsupervised.
The Hiltons’ Holiday | Sarah Orne Jewett
After a long day of hard work, John Hilton talks to his wife about their lives and daughters. He has the idea of taking his daughters on a small trip so they can see the world off the farm.
The Blue Jar | Isak Dinesen
A rich Englishman who only cares about collecting rare China is sailing with his daughter when the ship catches fire. His daughter is left behind in the confusion. She is rescued by a young sailor, and they float in the lifeboat for nine days before being picked up.
The Outcasts of Poker Flat | Bret Harte
In an effort to improve their town, the citizens of Poker Flat expel a group of undesirables from their midst. They set out for the next settlement, making a difficult mountain journey. On the way, they meet up with a couple headed for Poker Flat, who share some provisions and direct them to a cabin to rest.
By the Waters of Babylon | Stephen Vincent Benet
The narrator, a young man, is the son of a priest, and will one day be a priest himself. The people are forbidden to go east to the Dead Places, or to cross the river to the Place of the Gods, except for a priest. There is another more primitive group called the Forest People. He sets out to the east on a journey.
The Sun-Dog Trail | Jack London
Sitka Charley is relaxing after a day on the Alaskan trail. He and the narrator start talking about a painting, which reminds Sitka of an arduous journey he once made. When he was a letter carrier on Lake Linderman, a young woman hired him to take her to Dawson. Then she hires him to travel with her. She is desperately looking for something but doesn’t tell him what.
See also: Beyond the Bayou (Psychological)
I will try to add more stories about journeys 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.