Shocking Short Stories

Ranking school required reads in terms of disturbing material


Photo by Avery Myers

We’ve all read some pretty crazy and disturbing short stories for English class. I decided to rank all of those stories from least traumatizing to most. – Made in Canva

Students are exposed to some highly questionable material during middle school and high school. Some of it comes from the students around them, but there is also a large portion that comes from the curriculum they are taught. Having experienced all of middle school and most of high school, I’ve been introduced to a lot of crazy things but some of the most traumatic experiences I’ve had is reading the short stories in English class. Those stories ranged from all sorts of dark topics including murder and even necrophilia. I plan to list the most detrimental and questionable stories I was required to read during middle school and high school, so prepare yourself for some traumatic flashbacks to English class.

5. “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
This story has the least amount of murder, scandal and haunting material, but it has still stuck with me through the years. I read it during sixth grade, and was easily impressed with the sick feeling of dread that comes with the narrative. Basically, this girl has been waiting for seven years to see the sun because she lives on Venus where it rains every single day. All of her classmates are bullies, however, and lock her in a closet during the one time that the sun shines. I was too young to understand what the story was supposed to symbolize, and instead I just felt miserable for the poor girl.

4. “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
This story wasn’t very traumatic for me, but thinking back on it makes me realize that having a bunch of freshmen read a story about killing people as a game probably wasn’t the best idea. The story revolves around this big-time hunter who is washed up on an island that is inhabited by this general who is pretty much a lunatic. The general starts to hunt the hunter and eventually the story ends with the big-time hunter sleeping in the general’s bed, insinuating that he killed the general. All in all, it’s a pretty entertaining story but it’s also pretty dark for a group of 14-year-olds.

3. “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
The fact that this story is only half way on the list shows just how messed up the short stories were. A quick recap of this story is that this isolated woman falls in love with this man who doesn’t entirely love her back, and she makes some drastic choices. She decides to kill him so he can never leave her and then she repeatedly commits necrophilia until she dies as well. Wowzers. Imagine freshmen boys and girls having to read that aloud in class. At that point, the absurdity of the story completely outshines its actual meaning.

2. “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury must have had some pretty disturbing nightmares because his stories are filled with troubling topics. This story is set in the future where these kids have an interactive TV room called a nursery. It’s supposed to just broadcast sceneries in a realistic way, but the kids somehow create this really dark image of an African veldt. The parents become concerned and after some investigating, they decide to shut the nursery down. The kids retaliate and lock their parents inside the room where, spoiler alert, they get eaten and slaughtered by lions. Reading this story as a 12-year-old filled me with so much terror and dread. Those kids killed their parents for technology, and while that is supposed to express some deeper meaning, all I could understand was that this story was extremely disturbing and traumatic.

1. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
Following a slightly dysfunctional family’s road trip, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” was the most sickening short story I have ever read. The family’s road trip gets cut short when the car crashes and they meet three men who just so happen to be escaped convicts charged for murder. You get to read the one-by-one death of everyone in the family and the traumatic pleading from the grandmother who at the last minute claims the convict is her baby. I had to read this for homework over the weekend during freshman year and I can visually remember sitting at my desktop with tears in my eyes and wanting to throw up at the same time. There are so many layers to this story and themes involved that I was very overwhelmed and just altogether distraught. I don’t know why my teacher assigned this to his freshman class, but this story is the most traumatic one I was exposed to.

Moral of the story, all of these stories should not have been taught to such impressionable middle school and high school students. Because I was at such a young age, the true meaning of the stories was not understood and I was only left confused and traumatized. Reading these stories as a senior still gives me flashbacks, but at least I’m mature enough to look past this and comprehend the real reason the stories are so important. What is even worse, is that we read these at a very formative age and what is stopping a kid from hearing these stories and taking it to heart? While I was traumatized, maybe some other student misinterpreted the story and now thinks murder and the other questionable things are acceptable. If every student was to look back on the strange things they were required to read at an alarmingly young age, I think we would all come to the conclusion that we have been exposed to some drastically disturbing material.