Short Stories About Integrity, Responsibility or Honor

In these stories a character’s personal integrity is tested or revealed.

They might have made promises or have responsibilities to others. They could have societal or work-related duties.

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Gimpel the Fool | Isaac Bashevis Singer

Gimpel, the narrator, is an adult orphan who gets turned over to the baker as an assistant. He admits that he’s “easy to take in”, and the villagers all play him for a fool. When he talks about leaving, the villagers try to convince him to marry Elka, a prostitute.

“Gimpel the Fool” is the first story in the Amazon preview of Collected Stories.

An Act of Vengeance | Isabel Allende

Dulce Rosa is the daughter of Senator Orellano, the most powerful man in the province, and enjoys the advantages of her position. She’s charming and good-looking but develops a reputation for extreme beauty. Eventually, the tide of the Civil war turns and Tadeo Cespedes marches against the province. There’s no way her father’s defenses can hold out. Dulce Rosa makes a vow.

“An Act of Vengeance” can be read in the Amazon preview of Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real.

The Tall Men | William Faulkner

The deputy sheriff leads a draft investigator to the McCallum’s house. The two McCallum boys failed to register for the draft, so the investigator has a warrant for their arrest. When they arrive a doctor is tending to the boys’ uncle. He injured his leg at work.

This story can be read in the preview of Collected Stories.

Guests of the Nation | Frank O’Connor

During the War for Independence, two Englishmen are held captive by the Irish Republican Army. The captors and captives develop camaraderie as they go about their daily routine.

This is the first story in the preview of Collected Stories(Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)

“Taking Care” by Joy Williams

Jones, a preacher, visits his wife in the hospital. She has a problem with her blood. He is also caring for his baby granddaughter, as his daughter has left her with him to go to Mexico to deal with her own problems. The narrative also shows the beginnings of his wife’s and daughter’s difficulties.

This is the first story in the preview of The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories.

“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)

Shooting an Elephant | George Orwell

The narrator is a British colonial policeman in Burma. He gets a report that there’s an elephant loose, causing damage in the marketplace. While looking for it, he comes across a dead Burmese man, crushed by the elephant. This escalates the situation and he knows it is his duty to stop the elephant.

Read “Shooting an Elephant”

A Worn Path | Eudora Welty

An elderly African-American woman, Phoenix Jackson, walks through the Mississippi forest to get into town. She encounters many obstacles while trying to get medicine for her grandson.

Read “A Worn Path” (The Atlantic)

The Assignation | Karoly Kisfaludy

The Major in a regiment stationed near Lake Como falls in love with a young Italian maiden. Her parents are against the match and they keep them apart. After several months, the Major is dejected and the girl’s infatuation is at a high point. Her parents take action.

Sorrow-Acre | Isak Dinesen

Adam returns to his family home in Denmark as he is now the heir. A barn belonging to his uncle was burned down, and the main suspect is a young man, Goske. His uncle offers the man’s mother a deal: if she can complete a near-impossible job he will free her son.

A New England Nun | Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

Louisa Ellis has lived alone a long time and is used to doing things her own way. Fourteen years ago, she promised to marry Joe Dagget when he returned from seeking his fortune in Australia. Joe returns and it’s time to fulfill her promise.

Read “A New England Nun”

Old Mother Hubbard | A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

Randell replaces Curly as the foreman of a ranch. The men like Curly and are critical of the new boss. They also look forward to Curly’s return, and a potential fight between the two.

The Shot | Alexander Pushkin

A regiment of Russian soldiers often goes to the home of Silvio, a mysterious man, to play cards and drink. A young soldier insults Silvio, but he lets it pass; he doesn’t challenge him to a duel as honor demands.

Read “The Shot”

Gun Job | Thomas Thompson

When Jeff Anderson got married, he quit his job as town marshal and moved with his wife to a small ranch. One Sunday morning he visits the new marshal, Billy, whom he recommended for the job. Jeff has been getting some pressure from the mayor and council to resume his duties. Billy is aware of the complaints against him. He’s been having problems with Hank Fetterman, a man whom Jeff had run-ins with during his time as marshal.

Read “Gun Job”

The Mourners | Bernard Malamud

Kessler is on social security and lives alone in a cheap tenement. He would still be working but for his quarrelsome nature. He walked out on his family thirty years ago. He has no friends and doesn’t speak to his neighbors. One day an argument erupts between Kessler and the janitor, Ignace, over the way he disposes of his garbage. Ignace takes the matter to the landlord, Gruber.

Read “The Mourners”