Short Stories About Destiny or Fate

These stories have characters who are are trapped, or believe they are trapped, in a predetermined course of events, or are headed for an unavoidable outcome. They might also address the question of whether it is possible for these events to change.

The events might be fated by a divine being or some other cosmic force.

In some stories accidents and coincidence play an important part in the plot.

When Twilight Falls on the Stump Lots | Charles G. D. Roberts

A young cow gives birth to its first calf. Nearby, a gaunt she-bear hungrily but patiently for a chance to strike.

Read “When Twilight Falls on the Stump Lots”

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.

Read “Jeannot and Colin”

The Killers | Ernest Hemingway

Two hit men, Max and Al, enter a diner to get some food and to wait for their target to arrive. They’re looking for a boxer, Ole Andreson, whom their employer has a grudge against.

Read “The Killers”

The Lightning-Rod Man | Herman Melville

On a very stormy night, a salesman calls on the narrator, warning him of the dangers of lightning. He tries to sell the narrator a lightning rod. Each strike of lightning makes his pitch more urgent, but the narrator trusts God with his fate.

Read “The Lightning-Rod Man”

The Fatalist | Isaac Bashevis Singer

Benjamin Schwartz, a man in a small town, earns the nickname Benjamin Fatalist. He believes that everything in a person’s life, every trifle, is predetermined. There is an attractive young woman in town with many admirers, but she rejects them all. Benjamin tells her it is fated that they should marry.

Read “The Fatalist”

The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller | Gustave Flaubert

After Julian’s birth, his parents are given two prophecies – that he will become a saint, and that he will attain glory in a royal family. As a young man he is given a third prophecy, that he will kill his parents.

Read “The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller”

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.

Read “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”

King of the Bingo Game | Ralph Ellison

A black man sits through a movie, waiting for the bingo game to follow. He falls asleep and dreams about an incident from his past when he was almost killed and the white people laughed at it. The man could really use the jackpot for his family.

Read “King of the Bingo Game”

Bezhin Meadow | Ivan Turgenev

The narrator, having finished grouse shooting for the day, heads home but gets lost. He ends up in Bezhin Meadow with five boys who are watching some horses. He rests while the boys tell superstitious stories.

Read “Bezhin Meadow”

A. V. Laider | Max Beerbohm

The narrator goes to a hotel to recover from a bout of influenza, the same hotel he stayed in the previous year for a similar recovery. On the letter-board, he sees an undelivered letter that he had written to A. V. Laider, a man he had talked to last time. He remembers the tragic story that moved him to write to Laider.

Read “A. V. Laider”

Mrs. Bathurst | Rudyard Kipling

The narrator gets the story of Mr. Vickery, a reticent man who deserted the navy. He became infatuated with Mrs. Bathurst, a hotel proprietor known for her generosity.

Read “Mrs. Bathurst”