Short Stories About Integrity, Responsibility or Honor

In these stories a character’s personal integrity is tested.

They might have made promises or have responsibilities to others. They could have societal or work-related duties.

See also War

Shooting an Elephant | George Orwell

The narrator is a British colonial policeman in Burma. He gets a report that there’s an elephant loose, causing damage in the marketplace. While looking for it, he comes across a dead Burmese man, crushed by the elephant. This escalates the situation and he knows it is his duty to stop the elephant.

Read “Shooting an Elephant”

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 while trying to get medicine for her grandson.

Read “A Worn Path”

The Assignation | Karoly Kisfaludy

The Major in a regiment stationed near Lake Como falls in love with a young Italian maiden. Her parents are against the match and they keep them apart. After several months, the Major is dejected and the girl’s infatuation is at a high point. Her parents take action.

Gimpel the Fool | Isaac Bashevis Singer

Gimpel, the narrator, is an adult orphan who gets turned over to the baker as an assistant. He admits that he’s “easy to take in”, and the villagers all play him for a fool. When he talks about leaving, the villagers try to convince him to marry Elka, a prostitute.

Read “Gimpel the Fool”

Sorrow-Acre | Isak Dinesen

Adam returns to his family home in Denmark as he is now the heir. A barn belonging to his uncle was burned down, and the main suspect is a young man, Goske. His uncle offers the man’s mother a deal: if she can complete a near-impossible job he will free her son.

A New England Nun | Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

Louisa Ellis has lived alone a long time and is used to doing things her own way. Fourteen years ago, she promised to marry Joe Dagget when he returned from seeking his fortune in Australia. Joe returns and it’s time to fulfill her promise.

Read “A New England Nun”

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.

Guests of the Nation | Frank O’Connor

During the War for Independence, two Englishmen are held captive by the Irish Republican Army. The captors and captives develop camaraderie as they go about their daily routine.

Read “Guests of the Nation”

The Shot | Alexander Pushkin

A regiment of Russian soldiers often goes to the home of Silvio, a mysterious man, to play cards and drink. A young soldier insults Silvio, but he lets it pass; he doesn’t challenge him to a duel as honor demands.

Read “The Shot”