Classic stories on the universal theme of forgiveness abound, particularly in the Bible, not only in the parables of Jesus Christ -- which allude to his imminent sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of the world -- but in many Old Testament stories which portend Christ's message of forgiveness, such as the story of Joseph's dramatic forgiveness of his 12 brothers for selling him into slavery. This timeless text of Western literature has inspired many other short stories on forgiveness.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
In this Southern Gothic short story by classic U.S. writer Flannery O'Connor, a family drives with their grandmother to Florida on a vacation, only to run into a notorious murderer who threatens to kill them. It is the annoying grandmother who finally reaches out to the Misfit -- the murderer -- despite his past; her gesture of unlikely grace, however, is too late to prevent the tragic ending. The juxtaposition of the murderer as an unideal man with the grandmother reveals the superficiality of her own ideal of what constitutes a "lady." Flannery O'Connor, a Catholic, often interwove her works with Christian themes of grace and faith.
The Cask of Amontillado
"The Cask of Amontillado" is Edgar Allen Poe's classic tale of revenge. The protagonist, Montresor, refuses to forgive Fortunato for an unidentified offence. All of Fortunato's pleas for Montresor to spare his life are in vain, as Montresor is so obsessed with revenge that his mind is closed to forgiveness. "Amontillado" exemplifies Gothic storytelling with sinister foreshadowing, dark symbols and Masonic fraternity references.
This parable by famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy teaches the value of forgiveness. A king learns to seize the moment and forgive his enemy, who also forgives the king because he saves his life. This simple short story encourages the reader to take advantage of every moment: "Remember then: there is only one time that is important -- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power."
The Prodigal Son
One of the most well-known stories of forgiveness, the parable of the Lost Son is found in the New Testament of the Bible in the book of Luke 15:11-32. Jesus narrates this parable himself, among other stories of "lost" things, such as the parable of the Lost Coin and the parable of the Lost Sheep. In this quintessential allegory of God's love for sinners, a father joyfully welcomes home a son who has squandered all of his inheritance to live a sordid life.