Short Stories With Flashbacks

These short stories contain at least one flashback, but usually have several.

Flashback Stories

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway

The Macomber’s are an American couple on an African safari. They have a guide, Wilson, a professional hunter, who will lead their outing. It is revealed that Francis had panicked in an earlier hunt when a wounded lion charged at him.

This is the first story in the preview of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway.

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway

On the African savannah, a man’s leg is rotting with gangrene. His wife tries to comfort and encourage him. As he waits for death, he thinks about his life.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. (62% in)

“Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason

Leroy has been off work for four months since getting hurt. His wife, Norma Jean, supports them both by working at a drugstore. Leroy is glad to be home with his wife, but he’s worried that she’s drawing away from him—maybe his presence reminds her of their son who died as a baby.

This story can be read in the preview of Shiloh & Other Stories.

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

A Southern spinster, Emily Grierson, has died. She had been a recluse, so the townspeople are curious about her and her house. The narrator recounts episodes from her life. (Summary & Analysis)

This story can be read in the preview of A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. (18% in)

“A Horseman in the Sky” by Ambrose Bierce

During the American Civil War, Carter Druse, fighting for the North, falls asleep at his sentry post but wakes in time to catch a spy for the South.

This story can be read in the preview of The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs.

“Everything Stuck to Him” by Raymond Carver

A woman visiting Milan for Christmas wants to hear a story from when she was a kid. She’s told about a young couple who lived under a dentist’s office. They were in love and ambitious. Their baby was three months old. The young man plans a hunting trip with an old friend of his father’s. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “Everything Stuck to Him”

“Runaway” by Alice Munro

Carla and Clark live in a mobile home. Their neighbor, Sylvia, returns from a trip to Greece. Carla stays out of sight in the barn. She wonders if Clark knows yet. He has a temper and has had run ins with several people in the area. Carla’s worried about her goat, Flora, that’s been missing two days. Sylvia calls for Carla to come help with the house tomorrow. Clark has been ruminating on a scheme for a while and he wants Carla to start it.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of Runaway(12% in)

“The New Dress” by Virginia Woolf

Mabel arrives at Clarissa’s place for a party. Immediately, she has the suspicion that something is wrong. Walking to the far end of the room and looking in the mirror confirms her fears. Her dress isn’t right. She couldn’t afford the latest style so she had one made from a cheaper pattern, old-fashioned, modeled after a picture from a Paris fashion book that looked charming on the page. Mabel has always had issues with inferiority, and now, in a room full of fashionably dressed people, these feelings surface. She becomes consumed with how she looks and how she is viewed by the other attendees.

“The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx

Mero Corn is informed that his brother, Rollo, has been clawed to death by an emu. Mero, a retiree, decides that he will drive from Massachusetts to Wyoming for the funeral. On the way, he thinks about his father’s girlfriend, who, years ago, had told him a disturbing story about a luckless rancher and a half-skinned steer.

“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.

“You’re Ugly, Too” by Lorrie Moore

Zoe Hendricks is an unmarried history professor. She lives alone and has trouble connecting with men. She likes using humor, often at the expense of whoever is nearby. Her sister invites her to a Halloween party.

“Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Mrs. Dutta, an elderly, Indian widow, moves to her son’s home in America. She tries to adjust to American customs. A friend from India writes her a letter, asking if she’s happy in America. Mrs. Dutta thinks about how to respond.

“Paris 1991” by Kate Walbert

Rebecca and her husband, Tom, go to Paris to conceive a child. Rebecca thinks often of her mother, Marion, who died a few months earlier.

“The Daffodil Sky” by H. E. Bates

A man returns to a town after many years away. He’s looking for Cora Whitehead, a woman he used to see. We hear the story of their relationship and of a decision he made that changed everything irrevocably.

“The Last Lovely City” by Alice Adams

Benito Zamora, a doctor and widower, is invited to a dinner party by a young woman. He sees several people he is acquainted with, but he keeps to himself a lot.

“The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami

An elephant, the ward of a Japanese town, disappears along with its caregiver. The narrator follows the story of the elephant closely, clipping all the news articles and thinking about what happened.

“Last Night” by James Salter

Marit, a woman dying of cancer, asks her husband, Walter, to help her die quickly. He agrees to give her an overdose of her medication. They have one last night out with a family friend, and then prepare for the end.

“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.

“Han’s Crime” by Shiga Naoya

Han, a circus performer, severs his wife’s carotid artery during their knife throwing act; she dies immediately. Han is arrested and, along with the circus manager and stagehand, is questioned by a judge about the death. He tries to determine if it was premeditated or accidental.

“Black is My Favorite Color” by Bernard Malamud

Nat Lime, a Jewish bachelor, is drawn to African-American people. He thinks about his experiences with them, which never seemed to go the way he wanted.

“The Pagan Rabbi” by Cynthia Ozick

The narrator hears that a renowned rabbi and childhood friend, Isaac, has committed suicide. He visits Isaac’s widow and learns that he had become fixated on nature before his death.

“The Northern Lights” by Joy Harjo

Whirling Soldier is a Native American Vietnam War veteran. In flashbacks, we see his childhood, his war days and his post-war life. He has struggled with drug and alcohol use.

“Wunderkind” by Carson McCullers

Frances, fifteen, arrives at the home of her piano instructor, Mr. Bilderbach. She is nervous; her playing has deteriorated lately. She has her lesson, and thinks about her history with her instructor, recent events that worry her, and her hopes and concerns.

Read “Wunderkind”

“Swaddling Clothes” by Yukio Mishima

Toshiko and her husband had hired a nurse. She gave birth to an illegitimate child in their house; they were unaware of the pregnancy until the birth. The situation has a strong effect on her, making her think about modernization and class differences.

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” (Pg 3)

“Conscience of the Court” by Zora Neale Hurston

A maid, Laura Kimble, is on trial for beating a white man, Clement Beasley. He went to the house of her employer, Mrs. Clairborne, to collect on a loan. Beasley says that when he found her absent and saw the maid packing up the silver he thought Mrs. Clairborne had left town and was sending for her things – things she had put up as collateral for the loan. When he tried to take the furniture, Laura intervened.

Read here

“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter

Doctor Harry checks on Granny Weatherall, a bed-ridden woman of almost eighty. She’s uncooperative and wants him to leave. She thinks about what she’ll do tomorrow. She has to go through her box of letters from George and John. She doesn’t need the children finding them. She thinks about her life, including the time she was left at the altar.

Read “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”

“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”