Short Stories About Hope and Disappointment or Regret

The short stories in the first section (Hope and Disappointment) have both feelings as two sides of the same coin.

The stories in the second section (Hope) have characters who are hopeful, or who end up with a reason for optimism.

The stories in the third section (Disappointment) 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.

• 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

“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)

“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)

“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)

“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)

“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.

Read “The Luck of Roaring Camp”

“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.

Read “Babylon Revisited”

“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.

Read “The Torture of Hope”

“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.

Read “Time Enough At Last”

“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.

Read “Marriage is a Private Affair”

• Short Stories on Hope •

“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.

Read “On Hope”

• Short Stories on 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.

“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.

Read here