Hard, Complex or Confusing Short Stories

Hard Complex Confusing Short Stories
Confusing Short Stories

These confusing short stories are harder to understand than the usual story. They could have confusing narration, a difficult plot to follow, or it might be unclear what is happening for other reasons. They’re all difficult, complicated, complex or confusing in some way. See also:

Hard or Confusing Short Stories

“King of the Bingo Game” by Ralph Ellison

A Black man sits through a movie, waiting for the bingo game to follow. He’s very hungry but knows he can’t ask to share anyone’s food, because things in New York aren’t like in the South. He’s unemployed and has no money. He needs to win the bingo jackpot so he can take his sick wife to the doctor. (Summary & Analysis)

“The Hanged Man” by Edward Bryant

Rockaway is hanging upside down from a tree branch, a tight nylon rope around his ankles. Owen refuses to cut him down. They talk while Rockaway suffers.

This story can be read in the preview of Among the Dead and Other Events Leading to the Apocalypse(24% into preview)

“Assumption” by Samuel Beckett

An artist of some kind doesn’t speak much and when he does, whispers. Nevertheless, his performance affects the audience. Alone in the silence of his room, he’s afraid of the potential for sound. (Beckett has many stories that are harder to follow.)

“Monday or Tuesday” by Virginia Woolf

A heron flies over a church and . . . that’s all I know for sure. Something is probably happening in this story (sketch?), but I’ll have to let you sort it out yourself.

This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Works. (72% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title again)

Virginia Woolf has several stories that are difficult to understand.

The String Quartet” by Virginia Woolf

The narrator attends the performance of a string quartet. She talks to an old acquaintance, listens to the music, and overhears some surrounding conversation.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(73% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title)

“Blue & Green” by Virginia Woolf

In “Green”, a chandelier (I think) reflects the light, dropping a pool of green on the marble below. The narrator’s thoughts run to other green things. In “Blue”, some kind of fish (?) spouts water from its nostrils, then submerges, and is then thrown onto the beach.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(74% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title)

“The Way We Live Now” by Susan Sontag

An unnamed man is showing symptoms of a disease, which turns out to be AIDS. His friends visit him in the hospital. They try to cheer him up, and they talk about his progress and behavior among themselves.

“The Country Husband” by John Cheever

Francis Weed, a middle-aged married man with four children, is in a plane that has to make an emergency crash landing. He’s affected by the experience, but his family doesn’t pay it much attention. Francis feels invigorated by this second chance. He becomes obsessed with Anne, the babysitter.

“Meneseteung” by Alice Munro

Almeda Roth is a poet who becomes interested in Jarvis Poulter, a rich widower. Roth takes a nerve medication for insomnia. One day, Roth is panicked to see a dead woman slumped against her fence. She goes to Poulter for help.

“The Indian Uprising” by Donald Barthelme

They tried to defend the city, but the Comanche’s attack was too strong. There were too many arrows and war clubs to repel. They captured a Comanche and tortured and interrogated him. They put up barricades, but the narrator realized he knew nothing. He remembers a woman named Sylvia, some tables he made, and an actress who had to film some sensitive scenes. He’s put in touch with Miss R., a teacher.

“The Door” by E. B. White

A man is touring a house. He is confused about the location of the doors in the house, and compares his situation to rats that are experimented on.

Read “The Door”

I’ll keep adding hard or confusing short stories as I find them.