Novels About Honor, Duty or Responsibility

Characters feel a sense of responsibility in these novels, or they live up to an obligation out of duty or honor.

See also War | Military

Duty, Honor or Responsibility

Waiting | Ha Jin

Lin Kong is a married army doctor and teacher. He develops feelings for Manna, a nurse he works with. Eventually, she broaches the idea of an affair. He is uncomfortable with this, wanting to divorce his wife first.

Treasure Island | Robert Louis Stevenson

Hawkins and Livesey come into possession of a treasure map and set out to seas after it. One of the crew, Silver, plans to mutiny.

Read “Treasure Island”

War and Peace | Leo Tolstoy

The narrative covers the events in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. Among the large cast of characters, some fight in the war, some have financial difficulties, and others have romantic entanglements at home.

“…but cost me what it may I shall do my duty.”

Read “War and Peace”

Billy Budd | Herman Melville

Billy is pressed into service aboard the HMS Bellipotent. He is popular with the crew, except for the Master-at-arms, John Claggart. His dislike of Billy escalates.

“His duty he always faithfully did; but duty is sometimes a dry obligation, and he was for irrigating its aridity whensoever possible with a fertilizing decoction of strong waters.”

Read “Billy Budd”

The Kitchen God’s Wife | Amy Tan

Winnie Louie is a Chinese immigrant in America. A friend persuades her to tell all her secrets to her grown daughter, Pearl. Winnie tells her life story from childhood until Pearl’s birth. She relates how she came to be married, her husband’s role in the war against the Japanese, and the abuse she suffered at his hand.

The Remains of the Day | Kazuo Ishiguro

Stevens is a butler who has been serving at Darlington Hall for thirty years. The house is being taken over by an American, Mr. Farraday, a relaxed and casual man, unlike his previous employer, Lord Darlington. Mr. Farraday is going to be away from the house for a few days, so Stevens drives to see Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper; he hopes to persuade her to return to Darlington Hall. During the drive, he reflects on his years of service, and what it means to be a great butler.

All the King’s Men | Robert Penn Warren

In 1936 Jack Burden is an assistant to Governor Willie Stark. They are visiting the governor’s childhood home for some publicity shots. They also visit Judge Irwin, who has changed his mind about doing Willie a favor. The narrative goes back to 1922 and recounts Willie’s political rise, and Jack’s role in it.

Don Quixote | Miguel de Cervantes

Influenced by books of chivalry, a man decides to become a knight. He finds a squire and sets out to fight injustice and uphold what’s right. His imagination runs wild as it fills in the gaps in his adventures and often leads him to make absurd decisions and misread situations.

“…know that my calling is no other than to aid the weak, to avenge those who suffer wrong, and to chastise perfidy.”

Read “Don Quixote”

My Friend Flicka | Mary O’Hara

Ken, ten-years-old, is unfocused and not doing well at school. His brother had been given a colt to train, but Ken hasn’t been trusted with that responsibility yet. Eventually, he gets to choose a colt; he picks a wild one with mustang blood.


Find popular novels to read online, or find a novel to add to your to-buy list.

Hope you found your next book to read among these suggested novels.