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5 powerful war stories by famous authors

5 powerful war stories by famous authors

War is one of the greatest catalysts of change enacted by humans throughout history and reimagined by them in literature. Armed conflict, or the threat of it, transforms everything from continents to individuals, sometimes for the better but often for the worse. And those of us who are lucky enough to remain tucked away in our homes watch or read the news, barely blinking at reports of yet another government killing its citizens or some other atrocity.

Short stories, though fictional, offer a view of war that is sometimes harder to get from news reports: its effect on people. Here are five emotional short war stories from famous writers that you can read for free online.


"The Red Convertible" by Louise Erdich

Summary: When Lyman's brother returns changed from serving in Vietnam, Lyman hopes the red convertible they bought together can bring him back.

Favorite line: "Some people hang on to details when they travel, but we didn't let them bother us and just lived out our everyday lives here to there."


"Home" by George Saunders

Summary: Mike is home from serving in a fictional Middle Eastern city, conflicted about his past actions and frustrated by the new state of his family.

Favorite line: "I took him by the shirt. I was, by this time, good at taking people by their shirts, looking them in the eye, speaking directly."


"Beware of the Dog" by Roald Dahl

Summary: A World War II pilot bails out of his plane after losing his right leg, then wakes up in a Brighton hospital — or so he is told.

Favorite line: "The sight of this fly, the suddenness of seeing this small black speck on a sea of gray, brushed the surface of his brain, and quickly, in that second, he remembered everything."


"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien

Summary: A short tale about the members of a platoon stationed in Vietnam, told through the physical and emotional burdens they bear.

Favorite line: "They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried."


"The Locket" by Kate Chopin

Summary: When a young woman receives the locket she gave her lover, a Confederate soldier, she believes the worst.

Favorite line: "She was so young and the world was so beautiful that there came over her a sense of unreality as she read again and again the priest's letter."

In honor of Veterans Day (Nov. 11), this month's theme is war and veterans.

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