Top Ten Iconic Short Stories

Short stories have a way of presenting thoughts and emotions in a concise and condensed manner. The plot of a short story is simple and limited in scope. A good short story can provide a complete and satisfying treatment of its characters and subject.

 If you love reading but don’t have enough time to read a novel, you could pick up a short story. 

Also Read: Reading Options for our Mini Readers

We have listed the top ten iconic short stories that cannot be missed!

1. The Tell-Tale Heart

This iconic story, written by the ‘Father of the Short Story’ Edgar Allan Poe in 1843, is an excellent example of Poe’s prowess in the short story genre.

Also Read: A Father and his Daughter

The story is a first-person narrative told by an unnamed narrator. It is an unusual story because the narrator tries to convince the reader about his sanity throughout the story, but the effect is the opposite. 

In the story the narrator is describing a murder committed by him. But the story is driven not by the narrator’s insistence on his innocence but his sanity. However, all the narrator’s rantings end up planting the seed of his madness in the reader’s mind.

2. The Yellow Wallpaper

Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, the story is about the oppression of women in nineteenth-century society. Considered a cornerstone of early American feminist writing, its commentary on the oppressive impact of patriarchy remains relevant to this day.

The symbolism of the emerging wallpaper pattern as we witness the narrator’s gradual descent into madness makes the story memorable and effective. 

The story is about a woman confined to her bedroom as part of a cure for her so-called hysteria. As the narrator slips into madness, she becomes increasingly enamoured by the yellow colour of her room.

It is apparent to the reader that just like the woman in the wallpaper, the narrator is being held prisoner by her husband and is desperate to break free.

3. Desiree’s Baby

Kate Chopin wrote this story in 1893. The story is set in Louisiana before the American Civil War when slavery was still considered lawful and examines the injustices of racism and gender discrimination.

The story ends with a sense of karmic justice, leaving the reader feeling smug and satisfied. The ending highlights that everyone is the same and nobody has the right to mistreat another person for whatever reason.

4. The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi is a well-known story written by O’ Henry in 1906. It is a simple story about a young married couple’s quest to get a perfect Christmas gift for each other. In this quest, they both end up giving up something very precious to them, giving an unfortunate twist to the story.

The reader is made to recognize that the sacrifices made by the couple for each other are the real Christmas gifts, and material things are of no value. 

5. Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle is another classic short story that has stood the test of time. Written by Washington Irving in the year 1819, this is a story about the henpecked Rip Van Winkle. After falling asleep in the woods, Rip Van Winkle wakes up to discover that twenty years have passed and the world has changed. The story captures the crisis of identity which he goes through. 

The story takes a metamorphic look at the changing American identity following the Revolutionary war. America and Rip must carve an identity for themselves in the new world. 

6. The Magic Shop

Written by H.G. Wells, The Magic Shop was published in 1903. The story narrates a father and son’s experience of visiting a magic shop. It is about how the same thing can be viewed differently depending on who is viewing it, which in this case happens to be a father and a son. While the shop is all about joy and wonder for the boy, the father views everything with a sinister and guarded viewpoint.

The story shows how childhood innocence transforms into an adult’s real and evil world. It makes the reader question whether innocence and evil really exist or whether it is a matter of our perception.

7. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

This semi-autobiographical narrative written in 1956 focuses on a young man living in Paris. The man faces a dilemma as he is torn between his girlfriend and an Italian bartender named Giovanni. Not only is it wonderfully written by one of the 20th century’s greatest Black thinkers, writers and activists, but it is also held in high regard for its honest and complex portrayal of bisexuality and same-sex relationships.

8. The Dead by James Joyce

The Dead, a part of Joyce’s well-known Dubliners collection, was published in 1914. it is about a young Irishman held in high regard by his family for his practicality and level-headedness. But all he stands for is challenged at a party where he is forced to confront his mortality. The story shows the writer’s ability to bury deep themes in seemingly straightforward stories.

9. Hills like White Elephants by Earnest Hemingway

First published in 1927, this story is perhaps Hemingway’s most brilliant short story. It is a masterpiece of subtlety and simplicity from a writer known for packing an abundance of meaning in a minimal word count. 

He talks about a subject in the story but never brings it up directly. The story is about this young couple waiting for a train and discussing an operation that is never clearly mentioned. However, it is evident that the man is pressuring the woman into having an abortion. It is how the subject is handled that makes the story a classic.

10. Cathedral by Raymond Carver

Cathedral is one of Raymond Carver’s most brilliant works. First published in 1983, the story is about a man’s jealousy towards his wife’s blind friend. The two men eventually bond over the image of a cathedral that only one can see. The reader is floored by the sheer simplicity of the story’s deceptively powerful ending.

These are iconic short stories loved by people who love to read. See if you feel the same!!

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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