Short stories that end in suicide of main character
February 24, 2014 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Do you know of any good short stories that end in the suicide of the main character? I'm interested in knowing how the writer of such a story designed the character arc.
posted by storybored to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
"A Perfect Day for Bananafish," J.D. Salinger
"Good Old Neon," David Foster Wallace (though the narrative structure doesn't quite match your criteria, I think it's close enough to qualify)
posted by FrauMaschine at 12:56 PM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Paul's Case" by Willa Cather. This link to the story is even part of a critical literary study of the work, which will help your specific interest.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am The Doorway in King's Night Shift
posted by sanka at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2014

I just listened to one (spoiler): Escape Pod's recording of "Into the Breach" by Malon Edwards.
posted by straw at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2014

Mild niggling clarification that "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" is about a possible suicide. It's actually an open question as to whether the main character goes ahead with it or not, as the story ends while he's still trying to decide. But for your purposes it may indeed still work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2014

The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
posted by erst at 1:16 PM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

The Judgment by Franz Kafka.

And another from Mr. King: Weeds, which was reinterpreted for film as "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" in Creepshow.
posted by divined by radio at 1:20 PM on February 24, 2014

The first chapter of The Virgin Suicides originally appeared on its own in The Paris Review. I don't have it here with me to double-check, but I believe that that chapter (which opened with Cecilia's first, unsuccessful attempt) concluded with her suicide.
posted by sophieblue at 1:29 PM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

escape from spiderhead.
posted by rr at 1:37 PM on February 24, 2014

George Bland, the tragic hero in W. Somerset Maugham’s short story The Alien Corn, studies piano for two years in Munich and, after returning to London, plays for Lea Markart, “the greatest women pianist in Europe.” The narrator gives his impression of George’s playing, “I felt that he missed what to me is the peculiar charm of Chopin…and again I had the vague sensation, so slight that it almost escaped me, that the two hands did not quite synchronize.” Asked whether she thought that George could become a concert pianist, Lea Markart answers, “not in a thousand years.” George shoots himself.
posted by Namlit at 2:02 PM on February 24, 2014

"Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff involves a sort of indirect suicide, similar to suicide-by-cop - beautifully crafted storyline.
posted by mmiddle at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2014

This may be a spoiler but Michael Shea's "The Autopsy" is a fantastic and frightening short story. It meets your criteria, though perhaps not in the most expected way.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2014

Kafka's "In the Penal Colony", and, necessarily - though it may run a little longer than a short story as such - Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.
posted by iNeas at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2014

Thomas Mann's "Little Herr Friedemann."
posted by steinsaltz at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wingstroke by Vladimir Nabakov. It's a wonderfully weird and inventive story.
posted by Balna Watya at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2014

"The Only Neat Thing to Do" by James Tiptree Jr.

She followed that arc herself.
posted by Dmenet at 4:04 PM on February 24, 2014

All the Myriad Ways by Larry Niven: after parallel universes are discovered, people realize that all the possible outcomes of all decisions exist simultaneously, and start killing themselves, because it just makes no difference anymore. The story has 10 different endings, in one of them the detective who has been investigating the suicides kills himself too.
posted by Tom-B at 4:25 PM on February 24, 2014

While Richard Cory is more of a poem, it was the first thing that jumped to mind when I read your question.
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 6:28 PM on February 24, 2014

The Furnished Room by O. Henry is what popped into my mind.
posted by Aquinas at 10:30 PM on February 24, 2014

Night Games by Arthur Schnitzler.

It's an immensely tightly written narrative. Keywords would be: 'gambling' and 'honor'.
posted by bertran at 11:18 PM on February 24, 2014

Two masters of the genre: Guy de Maupassant's A Coward and The Child; Chekhov's Volodya.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 3:38 AM on February 25, 2014

To Room 19 by the incomparable Doris Lessing. The link is to a .pdf version of the story.
posted by Ladysin at 10:09 PM on February 25, 2014

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