Short Stories About Change & Transformation

The characters in these stories experience change in various ways— physically, psychologically, emotionally, and in their environment.

Some stories might be more focused on a character’s resistance to change.

See also:

“The Eighty-Yard Run” by 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, whom he married. He thinks about the wrong turns his life has taken.

This story can be read in the preview of Short Stories: Five Decades.

“Kindling” by Raymond Carver

It is summer and Myers has just finished a month of sobering up. He takes a bus to a town near the ocean and rents a room from Sol and Bonnie. Myers doesn’t say much about himself. His landlords speculate a bit about him.

This story can be read in the preview of Call If You Need Me.

“Why Don’t You Dance?” by Raymond Carver

A man puts all his bedroom furniture on his front yard. He also puts out his television, record player and other items. A little later, a young couple who’re driving by stop to see if they can get a deal on something.

This story can be read in the preview of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

“Roselily” by Alice Walker

Roselily, an unmarried woman with three children, is getting married. She thinks about how her life will change by marrying a member of the Nation of Islam and moving to Chicago. She doesn’t know a lot about her fiancé or his religion, but she’s willing to change her life for her children’s sake.

This story can be read in the preview of In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women(Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)

“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving

Rip Van Winkle is lazy at home but helpful to, and well-liked by, his neighbors. He’s out in the mountains one day to get away from things. With night approaching, he starts for home but meets up with a group of men. He has something to drink and goes to sleep, which changes everything.

This story can be read in the preview of The Big Book of Classic Fantasy.

“Axolotl” by Julio Cortazar

A man goes to a zoo aquarium and stands for hours watching the axolotls (a larval salamander). He says he has become one of them. He explains how this transformation took place.

This is the first story in the preview of Blow-Up: And Other Stories.

“All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein

A young man explains to a bartender that he was born a girl. He (she) gave birth to a child and there were complications. The doctors noticed he (she) was a hermaphrodite and performed an emergency sex-change operation.

A lot of this story can be read in the preview of All You Zombies—”: Five Classic Stories.

“Axiomatic” by Greg Egan

A man goes into The Implant Store. They sell tiny chips that can rewire the brain, giving people particular experiences or beliefs. He’s here for a special order. He looks around, giving himself a chance to leave without it. After five years, he still mourns and loves his deceased wife, Amy, but he knows he’s not doing this for her.

This is the second story in the preview of The Best of Greg Egan(28% into Kindle preview)

“Robot Dreams” by Isaac Asimov

Linda Rash, a robopsychologist, shows a master of the field, Susan Calvin, what has happened. Elvex, her robot, claims to have dreamed. Susan analyzes Elvex’s positronic brain patterns. Linda has applied fractal geometry to its brain to add complexity. Susan isn’t sure whether this is brilliant or disastrous.

This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Future on Ice(46% into preview)

“The Chapter Ends” by Poul Anderson

Jorun has returned to Earth with a small crew to prepare the few remaining humans to leave. The ship will be leaving in a few days. Jorun’s people don’t need ships to travel, but they’re being provided for the primitive humans on Earth. Kormt, an old man, has decided to stay. He feels a connection to Earth, and believes Jorun’s people have something dead inside them.

This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Supermen: Tales of the Posthuman Future(18% into preview)

“Lingua Franca” by Carole McDonnell

Mist leaves her shop and goes to the market where traders sell exotic foods from across the galaxy. On the way, she sees locals signing about the Earthers, who talk with their mouths rather than their hands. The Earthers are offering ear and throat implants to the locals. Opinion is divided on the subject.

This story can be read in the preview of Fantastic Stories Presents: Science Fiction Super Pack #1(45% into preview)

“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

A man wakes up one morning to find he’s been transformed into a giant insect-like creature.

After this impossible opening, this novella-length story proceeds normally. Probably the most famous story of change ever.

Read here

“The Unrest Cure” by Saki

A man and his wife dislike any change in their regular routine. After telling a stranger about this on a train, he recommends an “unrest cure”, where they would do something completely unusual for a while. Their lives soon get thrown into chaos.

Read here

“Disorder and Early Sorrow” by Thomas Mann

Professor Cornelius’s oldest children plan and throw a party for their friends. Economic times are difficult, but everyone tries to keep up good appearances. The professor is concerned about things that have changed such as his children, his profession, and art and the theater.

This is a novelette.

Read here

“The Rememberer” by Aimee Bender

A man experiences rapid, reverse evolution. He goes from man to ape to sea turtle, losing about a million years a day.

Read “The Rememberer”

“The Secret Lion” by Alberto Alvaro Rios

Two twelve-year-old boys start junior high school, and explore the land around their Arizona country homes, even though they’re not supposed to.

Read “The Secret Lion”

“The Last Lesson” by Alphonse Daudet

Near the end of the Franco-Prussian War, a schoolboy gets his last lesson in French because the Prussian authorities have outlawed teaching French in schools.

“The Sacrificial Egg” by Chinua Achebe

Julius Obi is at work but there’s nothing to do. The marketplace is deserted due to a smallpox outbreak.

Read “The Sacrificial Egg” (The Atlantic)

“The Friday Everything Changed” by Anne Hart

In a small town classroom, a girl challenges a local tradition that is only carried out by the boys.

Read here

“Aftermath” by Mary Yukari Waters

Japan is becoming Americanized following its defeat in WW II. Makiko, a widow, worries that her son will forget his heritage and his father.

“The Ring” by Isak Dinesen

Sigismund and Lovisa are young newlyweds who have overcome differences in class and wealth to be together. Sigismund is a farmer. There is a sheep thief in the area that was caught in the act a few days prior, leading him to kill a man. Sigismund and Lovisa have a different view of the criminal.

Read “The Ring”

“The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat” by Saki

Jocantha Bessbury is a comfortable and contented wife. She suspects that only her cat, Attab, is more contented than herself. Wanting to spread good cheer, Jocantha decides to buy theatre tickets and give them away to a shop girl who couldn’t afford them on her own. Meanwhile, the cat goes about his usual routine.

Read here

“The Sky is Gray” by Ernest Gaines

James is an eight-year-old black boy in the 1930’s South. He has a bad toothache but didn’t tell his mother about it, not wanting to be a crybaby and knowing they can’t afford to have it pulled. After he tries aspirin and a prayer cure with his aunt’s help, without success, his mother discovers the problem.

“Residents and Transients” by Bobbie Ann Mason

Mary is married and lives in Kentucky. She is in her parents place, selling it for them in their absence. Her husband is in Louisville, looking for a home for them. Mary has taken a lover and isn’t sure if she wants to leave.

“The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” by Stephen Crane

Jack Potter is returning from San Antonio with his new bride. He’s the marshal of Yellow Sky, respected in the town, and he’s wondering how everyone will react to this change. Meanwhile, in Yellow Sky, a trouble-maker, Scratchy Wilson, is on one of his rampages.

Read here

“Friend of My Youth” by Alice Munro

The narrator recounts the life of Flora Grieves. She lived on a farm with her sister, Ellie, and her brother-in-law, Robert. She tells us how the house and work was divided, how Ellie and Robert came to be married, and how Flora responded to the many changes in her life.

Read “Friend of My Youth”

“To Set Our House in Order” by Margaret Laurence

Beth has to go to the hospital two weeks before her due date. Her husband, Ewen, is worried, as is her daughter Vanessa. Her mother-in-law, Grandmother MacLeod, is stoically detached. Ewen and his mother argue about getting some help for the house. Vanessa relates her feelings during the episode, and talks about the changes her grandmother has lived through.

“Split Cherry Tree” by Jesse Stuart

A student is held after school to work off the $1 debt he owes for his part in the splitting of a cherry tree. When he gets home late, his father is upset that he has had to do the farm work by himself. He is especially upset that the boys with more money simply paid and don’t have to work off the debt. He decides to visit Professor Herbert to settle the matter.

Read “Split Cherry Tree”

“The Shining Houses” by Alice Munro

Mrs. Fullerton has lived in the same house for over forty years. She is standoffish with her neighbors. She sells eggs and is self-sufficient. Her house is old and ill-kept. Newer houses are being built around it, and her neighbors want her house renovated or torn down.

“Graveyard Day” by Bobbie Ann Mason

Waldeen is divorced from Joe Murdock, the father of her ten-year-old daughter, Holly. Joe McClain spends a lot of time with them and wants to marry Waldeen. She is uncertain and finds the dynamics of shifting family relationships confusing.

“Broken Routine” by 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, which turns out to be very disruptive for him.

“Beyond the Bayou” by Kate Chopin

An African-American woman, La Folle, was frightened “out of her senses” as a child. As a result, she won’t cross an imaginary line in her area; she has never been beyond the bayou.

Read “Beyond the Bayou”

“The Wave” by Liam O’Flaherty

A two hundred foot high cliff has developed a cavern at its base from “battling” for thousands of years with the incoming waves. Waves continue to crash in, and high tide is approaching.

This story has no human or animal characters. The “characters” are the cliff and the waves.

Read “The Wave”

“Foxes” by Timothy Findley

Morris Glendenning, a reclusive communications expert, is going to visit the Royal Ontario Museum for some research. He had chanced upon a picture of a Japanese theatre mask called Fox, which was being held by the museum. He became fascinated with it.

Read “Foxes”

“Neighbours” by Tim Winton

A young Australian couple moves into a neighbourhood with many European migrants. The husband stays home and writes his thesis. The wife works. It takes them a while to adjust to the neighbourhood noise and interactions.

Read “Neighbours”

“Kitty” by Paul Bowles

A young girl nicknamed Kitty figures she must be called this because she will turn into a cat. She keeps close watch on her appearance. One day she thinks she sees tiny whiskers.

“The Beautiful Thing” by Kit De Waal

The narrator’s father leaves Antigua to work in America and, later, to start again in England. He works hard and experiences some racism as he establishes himself.

“Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed” by Ray Bradbury

Passengers step off a rocket on Mars. Due to a war on Earth, they are colonizing Mars until they can return. The Bittering family settles in but they are looking forward to going back. One day the daughter runs home with news of an atomic attack on New York.

“Chef’s House” by Raymond Carver

The narrator relates the time when her estranged husband, Wes, rented a house and tried to quit drinking. She goes to live with him there and they have a relaxed time. Wes stays sober. One day the owner visits with some news.

“Mrs. Fox” by Sarah Hall

A husband and wife are close and live comfortably. One morning the wife, Sophia, is vomiting in the toilet. She looks a bit feverish, but says she’s fine and goes to work as usual. That night, she’s well again. The next morning, she’s not quite herself.

Read “Mrs. Fox”

“Miss Leonora When Last Seen” by Peter Taylor

Miss Leonora Logan, a retired teacher, left town two weeks ago. Her house has been condemned; the site is the targeted location for a new school. The Logan family has a history of interfering with change in the community. The townspeople feel some guilt over her abrupt departure.

“A Revolutionary Tale” by Nikki Giovanni

Kim is a young African American woman who is explaining to someone why she’s late. She says it’s really the fault of her roommate, Bertha. Kim relates the personal evolution she has undergone. She began as a conservative. Then she met Bertha, who is a revolutionary.

Read “A Revolutionary Tale”

“An Amateur’s Guide to the Night” by Mary Robison

Lindy is a high school student about to graduate. She has her own telescope and is an amateur astronomer. She goes on double-dates with her mother, Harriet, who like to pass herself off as Lindy’s sister. She doesn’t provide much guidance for her daughter. Lindy’s grandfather also lives with them, but he’s not the most mature, either.

“The Duel” by O. Henry

When someone goes to live in New York, whether rich or poor and for whatever reason, they have to fight. The battle is between becoming a New Yorker and friend of the city, or remaining an outsider and enemy. William, a business man, and Jack, an artist arrive in New York at the same time. Four years later they meet for lunch.

Read “The Duel”

“Changes” by Neil Gaiman

Rajit, in his forties, has found the cure for cancer. The treatment doesn’t function as a normal drug; it works by resetting the body’s genetic code. The cure, however, does have a significant side-effect which, in turn, produces many unforeseen developments.

“The Secret of Life, According to Aunt Gladys” by Bruce Coville

When a woman is told her brother called, she gets pale. Her son didn’t know she had a brother. Her husband only found out about him from a picture. He’s coming to visit. The boy looks forward to having an uncle. The mother wants to avoid the visit.

“The Secret of Life, According to Aunt Gladys” is in Dirty Laundry: Stories About Family Secrets.