The short stories about Hope and Disappointment (first section) have both feelings as two sides of the same coin. The short stories about Hope (second section) have characters who are hopeful, or who end up with a reason for optimism. The short stories about Disappointment (third section) have characters who end up feeling let down, and have a pessimistic view. They didn’t necessarily begin with a feeling of hope. They also have characters who regret something about their lives.
Short Stories About Hope and Disappointment
“Sleepstalk” by Courtney Summers
The narrator goes to Jed Miller’s and stares up at his window. She’s supposed to stay away from him. Jed opens the front door and looks right at her. She’s curious how he’ll react to her. He walks down his front path to the street and goes right by her without any acknowledgement. He’s sleepwalking. She follows him. She thinks about their history and her accident.
“Sleepstalk” can be read in the preview of the anthology Defy the Dark.
“Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams
Verlie Jones works as a maid for the Todds. Her husband, Horace, has left and she fears he will return. The Todds don’t know how they’d get along without Verlie. (Summary)
This story can be read in the Amazon sample of The Stories of Alice Adams (18% in).
“The Stolen Party” by Liliana Heker
Rosaura has been invited to Luciana’s birthday party. Rosaura’s mother works as a maid for Luciana’s mother. She doesn’t like the idea of her daughter going to “a rich people’s party.” (Summary & Analysis)
“O City of Broken Dreams” by John Cheever
The Malloy family is on a train to New York, having left their home in Indiana the day before, and they’re excited about their new life. Evarts, the husband and father, used to be in the army, then he worked as a bus driver. In his spare time, he wrote a play. One day, a producer from New York came to give a lecture about the theatre. Evarts wife, Alice, managed to get him to read the first act of her husband’s play, which is all he had written so far. He liked it and invited the family to come to New York.
This is the fourth story in the above preview of The Stories of John Cheever. (62% in)
“The Park” by James Matthews
A black boy looks through the railing into the park where the white kids are playing. He wants to go in badly, but it’s against the law. A group of boys confront him, and he goes on his way. He has to deliver the washing his mother did. The park stays on his mind. (Summary)
“The 400-Pound CEO” by George Saunders
Jeffrey works for Humane Racoon Alternatives, a company that removes racoons from people’s property and supposedly releases them into nature far away. He’s obese and is mocked by his coworkers and boss, who’s a particularly unpleasant man. Jeffrey has feelings for Freeda, a coworker, but she’s repulsed by him. (Summary)
“The General’s Day” by William Trevor
General Suffolk, an elderly man, prepares for his day and has breakfast. He’s going to walk to the village and have coffee at a café, with the hope of meeting a woman. The General used to be an important man. He enjoyed himself with women, money and alcohol. Now, there isn’t much in his life.
This is the third story in the preview of The Collected Stories. (Kindle preview)
“The Villager” by Shirley Jackson
Miss Clarence is responding to an ad, looking to buy some furniture. She moved to the city to be a dancer but works as a private secretary. (Summary)
“Love and Bread” by August Strindberg
Falk wants to marry Louisa, but her father doesn’t think he earns enough money. After discussing the situation, her father agrees to let them marry but tells Falk that he needs to earn more. They’re overjoyed at the news and spend lots of time together. (Summary)
“Timothy’s Birthday” by William Trevor
Charlotte and Odo, an elderly married couple, prepare for a birthday visit from their son, Timothy. They don’t see him often, but he does visit on his birthday each year. Charlotte prepares his favorite meal, and Odo makes sure the gin and tonic is ready to serve. Meanwhile, Timothy tells Eddie that he isn’t going to go.
This is the third story in the preview of Selected Stories. (50% into preview)
“By the River” by Joyce Carol Oates
Helen, twenty-two, returns home after four months of being away in the city with another man. She’s waiting at the bus station for her father to come pick her up. She’s not sure why she left or why she’s coming back. She knows her husband will take her back, but she’s a bit nervous about how her father will react. (Summary)
“Probably Still the Chosen One” by Kelly Barnhill
Eleven-year-old Corrina has just returned from a year-long stay in Nibiru. She learned to use a sword and shield, and various survival skills. The High Priest will return for her in a week when he has the circlet. He instructs her to stay near the Portal under the cupboard by the sink. Corrina wonders how her mother will react to her long absence.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12. (46% into preview)
“The Brown House” by Hisaye Yamamoto
It’s an exceptional year in California for strawberries, causing the market price to drop. The Hattori’s start arguing for the first time in their marriage, and Mr. Hattori explores other ways of making money. He hears about a house in a nearby town where people can make their fortune. He visits the house one day while his wife and five children wait in the car. It’s two in the afternoon, and he only plans to briefly check it out. (Summary)
“Flax” by Will Weaver
Kenny, nineteen, makes a deal to take over the work on his grandfather’s farm. His grandfather will get one-third of the payout from the harvest, and Kenny can’t farm on Sundays. Kenny also works as a welder and helps his dad with other farm chores. He plans on planting flax, which is unseen in northern Minnesota. In the meantime, he has a routine of working all day, visiting his grandfather in the evening, and saving his money to buy supplies when the time comes.
This story can be read in the preview of Sweet Land: New and Selected Stories. (16% into preview)
“Crucifixion Variations” by Lawrence Person
Richard Lasman is in charge of The Jerusalem Project, a multi-year, multi-million dollar search through sub-quark event waves for Jesus. He’s an atheist, while the head researcher, Philip Morley, is deeply religious, having experienced a vision that cured his alcoholism. One day, Philip joyfully bursts into Richard’s office—he’s found Jesus.
This story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Extreme Science Fiction. (62% in)
“The Falling Girl” by Dino Buzzati
Marta, a nineteen-year-old, let’s herself fall off a skyscraper balcony after looking at the rich, important people in the city. She doesn’t fall in real-time; she has interactions on the way down and sees others falling as well. (Summary & Analysis)
Short Stories About Hope and Disappointment, Cont’d
“Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe
The new headmaster of an African school wants to modernize it and rid the locals of their superstitious beliefs. He blocks off part of the school grounds, even though that means blocking a path with great religious significance for the locals. (Summary & Analysis)
“Modern Love” by T. C. Boyle
A man and woman start seeing each other. He thinks everything is fine, but she’s very sensitive to the level of cleanliness everywhere they go. It seems extreme to him, but he caters to her preferences. The relationship progresses slowly, but he holds out hope that it will be normal.
This story can be read in the preview of T. C. Boyle: Stories. (8% in)
“The Elevator” by Dino Buzzati
A man gets on the elevator on the thirty-first floor of his building. It descends quickly at first, picking up two more people, but then it slows considerably. He’s not sure what to make of the situation, but he doesn’t mind, because one of the other passengers is a girl he’s noticed at the building for a few months. (Summary)
“Tower of Babylon” by Ted Chiang
The Babylonians are building a tower to heaven. Hillalum arrives from Elam as part of the mining crew who will dig through at the top into the vault of heaven. On the ascent, Hillalum learns how the construction of the tower takes place, and what the plans are when the top is reached. There are many workers as well as people who live at various points on the tower.
A lot of this story can be read in the preview of Stories of Your Life and Others.
“The Walls of Anagoor” by Dino Buzzati
A tourist in Tibet is offered a visit to the walls of Anagoor, a legendary city that doesn’t appear on the map or in the guidebooks. He’s skeptical, but the local guide convinces him and they set out early in the morning. (Summary)
“Seventeen Syllables” by Hisaye Yamamoto
Rosie’s mother, Tome Hayashi, has been writing haikus and submitting them to a daily newspaper that publishes some once a week. Until the dinner dishes were done, Tome did the housework and helped with the tomato harvest, along with the hired Mexican family, the Carrascos. Afterward, she would write at the table, sometimes until midnight. When there’s company, Tome talks poetry with the interested party and her husband talks to the other. Rosie has become friends with the Carrasco boy, Jesus, who goes to the same school as her. Both mother and daughter have significant experiences.
“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.
“The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Bret Harte
The residents of Roaring Camp, a mining settlement, are brought together by the birth of a baby. His mother, Cherokee Sal, was a sinful woman, who died in childbirth. They accept the child generously, giving it gifts and voting to raise it as a town. They name the baby Tommy Luck, because they think he’s turned the camp’s luck around.
“The Pacific” by Mark Helprin
Paulette Ferry, a young woman, is a precision welder in a factory making altimeters for planes. Her husband, Lee, is a Marine stationed overseas, in combat. Paulette devotes herself to her work while waiting, and hoping, for Lee to return.
“Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Charlie, a businessman living in Prague, returns to Paris to get custody of his daughter, now living with his sister-in-law. Charlie wasted a lot of money and used to drink heavily. He believes he’s able to care for his daughter now, and hopes he can convince his sister-in-law of it.
“A Field of Wheat” by Sinclair Ross
A married couple in their late thirties, beaten down from years of hard work, lives in poverty on their farm. This year the husband’s wheat crop is the best it’s ever been, and there is hope of a large payout as wheat prices are high.
“The Torture of Hope” by Villiers De L’isle Adam
Rabbi Abarbanel has been held in a dungeon and tortured for a year for usury and scorn for the poor. One day the Rabbi sees a sliver of light between the door and wall; he tries the door and finds it unlocked.
“Time Enough At Last” by Lynn Venable
Henry Bemis wants to read a whole book. He hasn’t been able to because he just doesn’t have the time. His wife and his work at Eastside Bank and Trust take up every moment. One day at work, he sneaks away to the vault with a magazine in his pocket. His timing turns out to be fortuitous, as he hears a thunderous crash from above.
“Marriage Is a Private Affair” by Chinua Achebe
A young man from the Ibo tribe in Nigeria who lives in the city, returns home to tell his father he’s engaged. His father is dead set against the marriage and cuts off his son.
Short Stories About Hope
“Ripe Figs” by Kate Chopin
A girl wants to visit her cousins but her Godmother says she has to wait until the figs are ripe. (Summary)
Read “Ripe Figs”
“Another Time” by Edna O’Brien
Nelly, feeling a great mental strain, leaves London for a seaside resort. She hopes to experience some sort of redemption. The reality of the trip soon sets in—a shabby hotel with a disappointing view, and people she’d like to avoid.
“On Hope” by Spencer Holst
A gypsy has a monkey trained to steal jewelry. One day it brings him The Diamond of Hope, a necklace belonging to the princess. It’s too recognizable to sell, and it’s cursed. Wanting nothing to do with it, the gypsy mails the necklace back to the princess.
This fable is about hope and fate.
Short Stories About Disappointment and Regret
“My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway
The narrator tells the story of being with his father in Italy and France when he worked as a jockey. His father had an argument with some people after winning a race in Italy. In France he eventually buys his own horse to train and ride.
This is the third story in the preview of 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.
“Regret” by Kate Chopin
An unmarried, fifty year-old country woman is called on to look after a neighbor’s children for a while. She gradually adjusts to their presence and needs. (Summary)
“Memories of Youghal” by William Trevor
Miss Ticher, an elderly woman, is relaxing on a hotel terrace when she’s joined by an untidy man, Quillan. He’s a private detective who’s watching a couple in the hotel. He starts telling Miss Ticher his history, which included the death of his parents when he was only five months old and his difficult upbringing. He has a lot of unhappy memories. Miss Grimshaw, returning from her walk, is annoyed to find a strange man talking to her friend.
This story can be read in the preview of The Collected Stories. (40% into Kindle preview)
“A Queer Heart” by Elizabeth Bowen
Hilda gets off the bus, having just arrived home from her trip to town. She’s a heavy-set woman in her sixties, sociable and friendly. She knows the rest of her day won’t be as pleasant. Her older, envious sister, Rose, is staying with her, and her daughter, Lucille, is critical.
“Regret” by Guy de Maupassant
A sixty-two year old bachelor thinks about his lonely life, and of a woman that he has always loved.
I’ll keep adding short stories about hope, disappointment and regret as I find more.