Short Stories About Identity and Belonging

These short stories address identity in several ways. It could be mistaken identity, concealing a true identity, or people figuring out who they are and trying to fit in, among other possibilities.

See also Appearances | Illusion vs. Reality

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

The Hounds of Fate | Saki

A weary man approaches a house looking for some relief, but he’s greeted like he’s the returning owner.

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Wounded Soldier | George Garrett

The bandages are removed from the head and face of a wounded soldier. His wound was irreparable; the doctor apologizes for not being able to do more. A high-ranking officer visits the veteran to persuade him to stay out of sight.

Desiree’s Baby | Kate Chopin

Desiree had been adopted as a toddler. She is now an adult with a baby of her own. She and her husband, Armand, are very happy. After a while, there are some whispers about the baby.

Read “Desiree’s Baby”

Twin Study | Stacey Richter

A woman, along with her twin sister, is part of a study of twins. It’s been four years since the last meeting when she saw her sister. She compares herself to her sister.

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Everyday Use | Alice Walker

Mama is an African-American woman living in the Deep South. Her daughter, Dee, an educated woman who’s drawn to a traditional African identity, is coming for a visit.

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Across the Bridge | Graham Greene

Joseph Calloway is hiding in Mexico after being charged with investment fraud in his own country. He’s being pursued by two detectives who are trying to identify him based on an old photograph.

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The Fat Girl | Andre Dubus

Louise is a young, fat girl who doesn’t feel accepted by family or friends. When she goes away to college, she follows a strict diet and loses seventy pounds. When she goes home to visit, it leads to a lot of changes in her life.

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The Magic Barrel | Bernard Malamud

Leo Finkle, studying to be a rabbi, hears that being married would improve his job prospects. He consults a matchmaker, but is concerned about the commercial nature of the venture and wonders whether love plays any part in it. He has an important realization about himself during the matchmaking process.

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Going Fishing | Norma Fox Mazer

Grace is up at four in the morning to go fishing. She doesn’t want to look in the mirror – she is a big girl. She often dreams of men who make her self-conscious about her looks rather than her ideal man.

The Kid Nobody Could Handle | Kurt Vonnegut, Jr

Jim Donnini is a new kid in town. He is Mr. Quinn’s nephew by marriage, and no one knows what to do with him. Jim is moody and a trouble maker at school. The head of the music department, George Helmholtz, tries to help the boy.

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Who Am I This Time? | Kurt Vonnegut

A member of a theatrical society is named director for an upcoming play. He takes the job on the condition that he can cast Henry Nash, a shy but great actor, as Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire.

A Day Goes By | Luigi Pirandello

A man finds himself in a deserted train station with no memory of how he got there or who he is. He leaves the station, trying to get a sense of his identity and what is happening.

This allegory parallels a man’s life from birth to shortly before death. More specifically, it is likely an allegory for Pirandello’s life.

Read “A Day Goes By”

From Behind the Veil | Dhu’l Nun Ayyoub

Ihsan is a good-looking young man who likes looking at women when he’s out walking, preferring the women in veils. Siham is out taking her regular evening stroll to meet him. She’s pleased that her veil conceals her strong attraction to him.

The Eighty-Yard Run | Irwin Shaw

Christian Darling thinks about the time he ran for eighty yards in football practice at Midwestern University. He also thinks back on his college sweetheart, Louise, who he married. He thinks about the wrong turns his life has taken.

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Don’t Call Me by My Right Name | James Purdy

Lois Klein decides that she wants to go back to using her maiden name, McBane. This desire comes to the fore while she and her husband are attending a party with mostly men. Her husband is against the idea and an argument ensues.

Dressing Up for the Carnival | Carol Shields

“All over town people are putting on their costumes.” After this opening, the narrator describes the clothes, accessories, and activities of several people. We see how they behave, view themselves, and how they are seen by others.

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Ranch Girl | Maile Meloy

The narrator describes what it’s like being born a girl into a middle-class ranching family. She talks about working with her father, the social rules of going through school, dating, and growing up.

There is some coarse language in this story.

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The Hidden Woman | Colette

A husband and wife talk about the possibility of going to a costume ball where licentious behavior is common. The man says he has to make an out-of-town call on a patient; the woman demurs because of all the strangers there who could touch her.

Read “The Hidden Woman”

The Bound Man | Ilse Aichinger

A man awakens on a path robbed, bleeding, and with arms and legs bound. He struggles to his feet and tries to make his way to the nearest town.

Read “The Bound Man”

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.

Read “Blue Winds Dancing”

Flying Home | Ralph Ellison

Todd, a young black man training to be a pilot in World War II, comes to after a crash landing. He is worried about the reaction of the white officers to his failure. An old black man, Jefferson, checks on Todd and sends his son into town for help.

Read “Flying Home”

Red Dress – 1946 | Alice Munro

A thirteen-year-old girl is going to be attending a Christmas dance. Her mother is making her a new red dress, but she is becoming self-conscious about wearing homemade clothes. She is awkward and uncomfortable at school and doesn’t expect to do well in the social atmosphere of the dance.

Read “Red Dress-1946” (Free sign-up required)

Identities | W. D. Valgardson

Moved by childhood memories, a man leaves his own affluent neighborhood and goes exploring. He ends up in a seedy area. He can’t blend in because he’s driving a Mercedes.

Read “Identities”

I will try to add more stories about identity or belonging 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.