5 Short Stories for High School Students With Moral Lesson

Teaching literary elements, classic novels, or contemporary short stories to high school English classes is a good way to keep the discussion alive in the classroom.

Literature allows students to see the world and life from different perspectives while teaching them to improve their critical thinking as well.

If you are a teacher or a student looking for a great story out there, here are short stories that will surely make you enjoy reading and get moral lessons from!

The Lady or The Tiger by Frank Stockton (1882)

A short story without resolution, “The Lady or The Tiger” is about a kingdom ruled by a king’s semi-barbaric approach to justice. Anyone who commits a crime is summoned to a royal arena where the subjects choose their own fate by picking between two doors. On one door is a tiger, waiting to eat whoever entered its room, while the other door is a fair maiden to whom they will be married. An individual’s fate will be determined by pure chance.

One day, the king discovered that his daughter has fallen in love with a young man. He was brave and sincere however, he is not of royal birth. This made the king angry which is why he decided to summon the man to the arena to determine his fate. Unbeknownst to the king, his cunning daughter used bribery to gain knowledge on how the doors are arranged. The fair maiden in the other door made the princess jealous and with her information about the door’s arrangement, she signaled her lover to choose the door to the right.

The story ends with this, leaving it to the readers to decide what lies behind the right door.

Moral of the Story:

Life is all about making decisions. Every decision has its consequence (could be good or bad) and it is up to you to decide and make your own fate.

Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin (1894)

Desiree was an adopted daughter by two wealthy French Creoles who owns a plantation, Monsieur and Madame Valmondé, in Louisiana. Abandoned as a baby, she was found by her father lying near the gateway of their residence.

Courted by the son of another wealthy and respected French Creole family who also owns a plantation, Armand Aubigny married Desiree. They had a loving and passionate relationship until Desiree gave birth to their son. The baby appears to be of mixed race and Armand immediately turned bitter and resentful towards his wife.

Knowing nothing about her real parents, Armand accused Desiree to be part black. Distraught, Desiree sought answers from her mother to confirm that she is white. Madame Valmondé responded and told her to return to their estate together with her son. When Desiree presented the letter to Armand, he told her that he wants her to leave. He felt that he no longer loves her because of how she caused injury to their home and his name.

Taking the child with her, Desiree walks off into a bayou alone with her child and never to be seen again. Armand decided to burn Desiree’s and their son’s belongings, including the letters that she sent him during their courtship. In the same drawer, Armand discovered a letter from his own mother to his father. The letter tells how his mother is thankful for his father’s love and for keeping it a secret from Armand that she belongs to a cursed race.

Moral of the Story:

This story shows us how prejudice, discrimination, and hatred can destroy a life. History has shown the negative effects of racism which is why it’s everyone’s role to change it for future generations to come. How great the world could be when everyone is seen as an equal and respected despite a person’s looks or the color of their skin.

The Interlopers by H.H. Munro “Saki” (1919)

Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym are two sworn enemies involved in generations of an old land dispute. Both in a forested area one night, each hoped to find and kill the other to defend their property rights.

The two men decided to separate from their hunting party and found one another in the forest. Before they could attack, a branch of a beech tree fell trapping Ulrich and Georg. The men quarreled at first but soon realized that their vengeance is futile and reconcile.

They both enjoyed talking about their dreams of a peaceful future and even made plans to meet publicly as friends. After reconciling, the two men joined voices to get the attention of their hunting parties. Ulrich thought he had spotted their companions approaching while Georg could not see due to the blood in his eyes. As the group approached, Georg asked if it was Ulrich’s men but he did not answer. When he asked again, Ulrich said no because instead of men, it was rather wolves approaching them.

Moral of the Story:

Written by Saki during World War I, this short story was published 3 years after his death after being shot by a German sniper. This short story is a depiction of how peaceful the world could be if only people talk out their differences instead of resorting to violence. War teaches us to be thankful for the things we usually take for granted such as sharing a conversation with people, going out for walks, or just simply looking at nature; things that people at war could not experience.

The Dinner Party by Mona Gardner (1941)

In India, where a large dinner party was held by a colonial official and his wife, the guests consists of army officers, government officials and their wives, and an American scientist.

A lively discussion was happening at one side of the long table between a young girl and a colonel. The girl was telling the colonel how women have outgrown the jumping-on-a-chair-at-the-sight-of-a-mouse era and they’re not the same as their grandmothers once were. The colonel responded in disagreement, explaining that women don’t have the actual nerve control of men to which some of the men at the table agreed with.

The colonel added that “A woman’s unfailing reaction in any crisis is to scream. And while a man may feel like it, yet he has that ounce more of control than a woman has. And that last ounce is what counts.”

Not joining the arguments, the American scientist continued to examine the guests and saw a strange expression coming from the hostess. She was looking straight ahead with her face contracting slightly when she summoned a native boy near her with a small gesture. She whispered something to him in which the boy’s eyes widen before leaving the room immediately. Not seen by anyone, the boy placed a bowl of milk on the verandah just outside the glass doors.

The scientist noticed this and realized that milk in a bowl only means one thing in India and that is bait for a snake. He looked at possible places where the cobra could be but failed. He soon realized that the only place left is under the table.

Torn if he should jump back and warn the others, he knew that making a commotion might frighten the cobra so he just spoke quickly in an arresting tone, sobering everyone.

“I want to know just what control everyone at this table has. I will count three hundred – that’s five minutes – and not one of you is to move a single muscle. The persons who move will forfeit 50 rupees. Now! Ready!”

The 20 people at the table sat like stones while he was counting. When he reached two hundred and eighty, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the cobra making its way towards the bowl of milk. Four or five screams can be heard as the American jumped to slam shut the verandah doors.

“You certainly were right, Colonel! A man has just shown us an example of real control.” the hostess says.

The American talked to the hostess, Mrs. Wynnes, and asked her how she knew that a cobra was in the room.

Mrs. Wyness smiled faintly and told him that the cobra was lying across her foot.

Moral of the Story:

It is easy to get caught up with our own biases and think that men or women are greater than the other. The general acceptance of gender equality is essential if we want to peacefully move forward towards a better future.

How Close to Savage the Soul by John Atcheson (2015)

This 12-page dystopian short story depicts the frighteningly near future caused by climate change. A grandfather decided to take his grandson on a trip back to where he used to live decades ago. To his dismay, the place was far from the way he remembered it. The beautiful ocean water where he used to surf and swim with his brothers now had risen and turned acidic.

The story continued with the old man feeling sorry and dismayed about how the world turned into – leaving nothing for his grandson and the youth to experience and live in a world prior to its destruction.

Moral of the Story:

This short story tells us about the possible future of our environment if we don’t start taking care of it now. We should be compassionate and fair towards others because climate change affects everyone. It’s also important to have a sense of justice as our actions will affect generations in the future too.

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