Short Stories From High School That Are Extra Astonishing Now

High school English class was a monumental time for all of us. The short stories we read stick with us for the rest of our lives. Here are a few favorites.

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As book lovers, our love for reading often stems from our English classes in school. Our teachers encouraged us to read and gave incentives for us to complete reading challenges. I, for one, was always told to put my book away so I could actually learn. The most striking, however, were the short stories we read during our high school lessons. They gave us the most surprising tales to discuss with the class and afterward, we would turn to our friends and wonder, “What even was that?” Other stories can escape our day-to-day memory, but these never really leave us. Here are five short stories from your high school English class to reminisce.

The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson


“The Lottery” is one of the most gruesome short stories on this list. Shirley Jackson writes a terrifying glimpse into a cult mentality gripping a community. I read this story during my junior year of high school and haven’t been able to forget about it since. Jackson explores how a shared goal can unite a group to do the extreme; in this case, stone a person to death based on chance. It’s a story about what can be deemed just and unjust. Is the luck of the draw the best way to handle violent decisions? Either way, it prompts animated discussions from a teenage audience, the ambiguous ending leaving everyone with much to say.

The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs


As children, we’ve all been told to be careful what we wish for. This story is the perfect example of that. “The Monkey’s Paw” dives into fate’s cruel sense of humor and why sometimes it’s better to just let life happen. When having dinner with a family friend, Mr. and Mrs. White gain possession of a monkey’s paw that can grant wishes. As the couple starts to ask for their wishes, they come true in gruesome, twisted ways, leaving them more troubled than before. It’s a sad tale of what arrogance or greed can do to a person and their family.

Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl


Vastly different from his other work, “Lamb to the Slaughter” is a story I still can’t believe Roald Dahl wrote. In elementary school, Matilda was my favorite book, so reading this story years later took me immensely by surprise. There isn’t an explicit explanation for what makes protagonist Mary Maloney do what she did, yet readers can’t help but marvel at her cleverness and innocent demeanor. This story subtly talks of female rage, as Mary acts impulsively and is still able to handle the aftermath gracefully. Once my class got to the end, we all sat in shock for a second and then slowly started nodding and applauding in approval. It’s impressive, sly, and perfectly executed.

The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


This short story was ahead of its time in discussions of feminism and mental health. Told through diary entries, the main character describes her declining state following giving birth, to which her husband wants her to rest all day. With no stimulating activity, she is stuck looking at the yellow wallpaper all around her room, finding movement in it, and thinking there is life stuck inside. Gilman inquires about stereotypes of female hysteria and how the patriarchy can undermine women’s health. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an important story in understanding society’s development toward mental health treatment.

The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe


A masterful, captivating storyteller, my first exposure to Edgar Allen Poe was with “The Tell-Tale Heart” in high school. This story, like many of Poe’s, fascinates readers by diving into the psychology of characters that aren’t objectively good. The unnamed protagonist spends his narration wanting to convince the readers that he is perfectly sane. However, he is also explaining the murder he committed. You can’t help but sympathize with him as he goes mad, but also you know he deserves it. It’s a story you can’t help but remember, especially when feeling guilty.

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