Short Stories About Rivalry

These stories might have characters who hold a grudge or are in competition with each other, directly or subtly. They could also have characters who get into arguments or fights.

See also Sports

The Confession | Guy De Maupassant

A woman makes a death-bed confession to her older sister about something that happened over 40 years ago.

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Old Mother Hubbard | A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

Randell replaces Curly as the foreman of a ranch. The men like Curly and are critical of the new boss. They also look forward to Curly’s return, and a potential fight between the two.

Roman Fever | Edith Wharton

While on vacation together in Rome, two middle-aged women talk about their past and their daughters.

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The Interlopers | Saki

Two feuding family patriarchs encounter each other in the forest. An accident gives them some time to talk about their problems.

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A Fine Old Firm | Shirley Jackson

Mrs. Concord and her daughter are visited by Mrs. Friedman. They both have sons in the army who have written about the same event, though they have presented them differently. The women talk about the job prospects of Mrs. Concord’s son.

A Great Day | Frank Sargeson

Two friends who are out of work go on a fishing trip. They talk about their situations, and a girl who they both know.

To Da-duh, in Memoriam | Paule Marshall

The narrator, an adult, tells the story of when she was nine-years-old and went with her sister and mother to visit her grandmother, whom she had never met, in Barbados. The narrator and her grandmother are both strong-willed. They feel a competitive urge as they talk up where they come from – Barbados and New York.

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The Blue Hotel | Stephen Crane

Three men arrive in Fort Romper and go to a hotel. The proprietor’s son, Johnnie, is quarrelsome and likes playing cards. He draws some of the men into a game. One of them, the Swede, gets drunk and hostile.

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The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind | Ray Bradbury

A city, probably in ancient China, is surrounded by a wall shaped like an orange. The leader gets a message that the adjacent city, Kwan-Si, is going to build a wall shaped like a pig. Since a pig could eat an orange, the inhabitants are worried that their city will suffer and Kwan-Si will prosper. At the suggestion of his daughter, the leader consults with the city’s stonemasons and builders to come up with a plan.

This story can also be read as an allegory for the cold war.

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The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife | Ernest Hemingway

The doctor hires some local Indian men to cut up a stray log for him. They argue when one of the men says the log is stolen.

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The End of the Duel | Jorge Luis Borges

The narrator tells the story as he heard it of Manuel Cardoso and Carmen Silveira, two men with adjacent properties who started quarrelling. Their grudge continued into a civil war where they fought on the same side.

The Blood-Feud of Toad-Water | Saki

The Cricks and the Saunderses are the only two families for miles. One of the Crick hens gets onto the neighbors property, sparking an outburst.

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The Baby Party | F. Scott Fitzgerald

Edith Andros and her two-and-a-half year old daughter, Ede, are invited to a baby party. Edith doesn’t really like the hostess, Mrs. Markey, but they keep up friendly appearances because their husbands are acquainted. When Edith’s husband, John, arrives late to the party, he hears a commotion and knows there’s trouble.

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The Deal | Leonard Michaels

Twenty boys, fifteen-years-old and under, sit on a stoop and watch a neighborhood woman cross the street and go a store. She drops one of her gloves. When she realizes it’s gone, she approaches the group to ask if they’ve seen it.

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The Golden Honeymoon | Ring Lardner

The Frost’s travel to Tampa to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They gently spar with each other about a few things. When they arrive, they have a chance meeting with someone from their past.

“The Golden Honeymoon”

The Light of the World | Ernest Hemingway

Two young men are passing through town. They stop at a bar for a drink and then encounter a motley group at a train station. Two of the women there, prostitutes, argue about a boxer they once knew.

Read “The Light of the World”

Raymond’s Run | Toni Cade Bambara

A young girl, Hazel, trains for a May Day race while looking after her older, mentally challenged brother, Raymond. Hazel is known as the fastest runner in her neighborhood and is determined to live up to her reputation and beat her rivals.

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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, throwing off his routine and putting him at odds with someone.

Read “Broken Routine”

Popular Mechanics | Raymond Carver

A man and woman, possibly married, have an argument as he’s packing to leave home. The subject of their baby comes up, causing a quick escalation of the conflict.

Read “Popular Mechanics”

Blood-Burning Moon | Jean Toomer

Louisa is a black woman working as a domestic helper for a white family, the Stones. She has a secret relationship with Bob Stone, a son of her employer. A black man, Tom Burwell, is also interested in her.

Read “Blood-Burning Moon”

The Iliad of Sandy Bar | Bret Harte

Scott and York are seen walking in opposite directions after the sound of an altercation and two gunshots. The townspeople try to get the details of the dispute but it remains hazy. The men were partners in a mining claim. A lawsuit is launched over possession purely out of spite as it is now worthless.

Read “The Iliad of Sandy Bar”