Stories About Guilt: Short Stories About Regret and Guilt

Stories About Guiltshort stories about regret
Stories About Guilt

Characters in these stories about guilt experience regret or remorse over things they’ve said or done. They might try to make amends, if the situation allows, or there might be no way of fixing things. Often, we’ll be let in on the character’s thoughts and feelings and be shown how they’re coping with the guilt. See also:

Stories About Guilt & Regret

“The Moustache” by Robert Cormier

Mike, seventeen-years-old, is going to Lawnrest Nursing Home to visit his grandmother. She has a chronic circulatory disease and a fading memory. He isn’t eager to make the visit, uncertain if his grandmother will be having one of her bad days. (Summary & Analysis)

“The Moustache”

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

An unnamed narrator describes how he killed a man; he tries to convince his listener of his sanity and wisdom. He believed his boarder, an old man, watched him with an “Evil Eye.”

This is the second story in the preview of Great American Short Stories.

“Trail of the Green Blazer” by R.K. Narayan

In the marketplace, Raju notices a man in a green blazer, who stands out among the crowd. He’s an attractive target, so Raju starts following him at a prudent distance. (Summary)

Read “Trail of the Green Blazer”

“The Listerdale Mystery” by Agatha Christie

Mrs. St. Vincent and her daughter, Barbara, have come down in the world. They’re even having trouble paying for their current place. A young man wants to call on Barbara, but they’re embarrassed to have him in their humble home. When Mrs. Vincent looks through the morning paper, she’s surprised to read an ad for a perfect house at a low rent.

This story can be read in the preview of The Golden Ball and Other Stories(9% in)

“The Book Signing” by Pete Hamill

Carmody emerges from the subway, back in his old Brooklyn neighborhood after decades away. He sees his face on a flyer advertising the reading and book signing that starts in about half an hour. He writes commercial novels with the recurring theme that nothing lasts. He walks around first. The buildings are the same, but all the shops are different. He’s never set any of his seventeen books in Brooklyn.

This story can be read in the preview of Brooklyn Noir(19% in)

“Wilshire Bus” by Hisaye Yamamoto

Esther Kuroiwa is riding the Wilshire bus to a hospital for soldiers to visit her husband because his old back injury is acting up. She’s allowed to go twice a week. She enjoys the long ride; she usually has an amiable seat companion, and she like looking out the window. An extroverted man gets on the bus and makes a loud, light-hearted remark to the driver. He sits behind Esther. At the next stop, an elderly Chinese couple get on, and the man has difficulty asking the driver a question. The extroverted man talks loudly, causing the Chinese woman to look at him. The man is offended and goes on a rant. (Summary)

“The Bewitched Jacket” by Dino Buzzati

A man gets a referral to a little-known master tailor and has a suit made. The tailor has an unsettling effect on him and he puts off wearing the new suit when it arrives. When he finally puts it on, it’s more remarkable than he could ever imagined. (Summary)

“Chunnel Vision” by Jeffrey Archer

The narrator visits his friend Duncan when he’s in New York. The narrator has a successful new novel while Duncan is excited about an idea he has for one. They go out to dinner to talk about Duncan’s idea. They’re joined by a woman Duncan is breaking up with. (Summary)

“The Lie” by Raymond Carver

A wife proclaims her innocence to her husband. A mutual friend has said something about her. She reviles the woman and asks her husband to believe her. He’s not sure what to make of the situation. (Summary)

“The Other Family” by Himani Bannerji

A little girl comes home from school with a picture she drew of her family. When her mother looks at it, she’s angry and sad. (Summary)

“The Man in the Well” by Ira Sher

While out playing, a group of kids hear a man calling from a well. He tells them to get a rope or ladder and tell their parents about him. They start to go for help, but then decide against it. (Summary)

“Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu

Hayley is remembered by her family. The each feel guilty and deal with her death in their own way. Her mother, who has always valued pictures, finds some solace in posting lots of pictures of her. Hayley becomes a symbol for gun control, and her mother makes public speaking appearances. With all the online material available, the trolls come out in full force.

“Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Charlie Wales returns to Paris to get back his daughter, Honoria. She has been living with his sister, Marion. Charlie is financially secure and has abandoned the partying and drinking that contributed to the death of his wife and loss of his daughter.

Read “Babylon Revisited”

“The Man Who Lived Underground” by Richard Wright

An unnamed man is hiding from the police. In his desperate state he lifts a manhole cover and, despite the rushing water below, jumps in. He explores the tunnels and thinks about his options.

This story is a novella.

“Roger Malvin’s Burial” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In 1725, two wounded soldiers have been struggling to safety for three days. The older one, Roger, is hurt worse; he knows he won’t make it. While resting by a rock, he tells the younger one, Rueben, to go on without him. They argue about it, and Roger tells a story to persuade the younger man to leave.

Read “Roger Malvin’s Burial”

“Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Markheim goes to a shop under the guise of looking for a present for someone. He really has murder on his mind, so he can then steal the dealer’s money and goods.

Read “Markheim”

Short Stories About Regret & Guilt, Cont’d

“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.

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin

The narrator, a high school teacher, reads in the paper that his younger brother, Sonny, has been arrested for dealing heroin. Their lives have gone quite differently—Sonny, a jazz musician and drug user, and the narrator who is educated and living in a middle-class neighborhood—so the narrator feels guilt over not having been able to help his brother more.

Read “Sonny’s Blues”

“The No-Guitar Blues” by Gary Soto

Fausto wants a guitar more than anything. When he finds a lost dog, he is sure there will be reward money that he can use for a guitar, especially if he embellishes the story.

Read “The No-Guitar Blues”

“The Shape of the Sword” by Jorge Luis Borges

The narrator meets an Englishman while drinking. He has a terrible scar on his face. The narrator asks him how he got the scar. The man reveals he is actually Irish. He tells the story of his time with a group who were fighting for independence. They were joined by a new man, John Vincent Moon, who was inexperienced and immature.

“The Last Sixty Minutes” by Susan Glaspell

The clock strikes eleven as Governor John Morrison sits in his office. In exactly one hour his term ends and the newly elected Leyman will take his place. Governor Morrison, an old man now, thinks about his time in office, especially how everyone knows he’s merely been a figurehead. The real power has always been with Harvey Francis. He thinks of his idealism as a young man and how little he’s accomplished.

Read “The Last Sixty Minutes”

“Absolution” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rudolph, an eleven-year-old boy, goes to see Father Schwartz. He wants to confess a sin. He relates the events of last Saturday, when his father ordered him to go to confession. He ended up lying. With this guilt on him mind, he concocted a plan to avoid going to communion the next day.

Read “Absolution”

I’ll keep adding short stories about guilt and regret as I find more.