Examples of Morals in Society and Literature (2023)

Examples of Morals in Society and Literature (1)

    Examples of Societal Morals


    Created by Karina Goto for YourDictionary


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Morals are formed out of a person's values. Values are the foundation of a person's ability to judge between right and wrong. Morals build on this to form specific, context-driven rules that govern a person's behavior. They're formed from a person's life experience and are subject to opinion.

For example, someone's morals might indicate they're opposed to murder. That's a pretty general rule of thumb. But what about something more mundane? While one person's morals might tell them not to gossip, another person's morals might be quite different. They might not consider gossip to be a bad thing. Consider the following examples of morals and see how many line up with your core values and beliefs.

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Morals in Society

Is there really a standard moral code in society these days? Yes, while most people follow society's laws, they also abide by certain social mores, which are governed by morals. While morals tend to be driven by personal beliefs and values, there are certainly some common morals that most people agree on, such as:

  • Always tell the truth
  • Do not destroy property
  • Have courage
  • Keep your promises
  • Do not cheat
  • Treat others as you want to be treated
  • Do not judge
  • Be dependable
  • Be forgiving
  • Have integrity
  • Take responsibility for your actions
  • Have patience
  • Be loyal
  • Have respect for yourself and others
  • Be tolerant of differences
  • Seek justice
  • Have humility
  • Be generous

For a deeper dive into the difference between values and morals, read What's the Difference Between Ethics, Morals, and Values?.


The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are often considered the basis for societies founded on Judeo-Christian principles. You'll notice some overlap with the list above, as many of these principles are still embedded in general society.

  1. Do not have any gods before me
  2. Do not make for yourself a graven image
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. Do not kill
  7. Do not commit adultery
  8. Do not steal
  9. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. Do not covet your neighbor's wife or possessions

Examples of Morals in Literature

Keep in mind that examples of morals in a story are different from the moral of a story. Remember, morals are rules that govern a person's behavior. The moral of a story, however, is the overarching teaching the author is trying to present. Of course, the two can align but they are separate entities.

For example, a character might be fighting to release his wrongly-convicted wife from prison because his morals tell him a man's job is to defend his wife. In his quest to free her, he will do anything, including lying and deceiving (which we know to be in contrast to sound morals), to get her out. In this case, the moral of the story isn't, "Be honest," or, "Don't lie." Rather, it could be "Family comes first."

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To Kill a Mockingbird

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is a white man defending a black man named Tom Robinson, accused of raping a young girl. In the Deep South in the 1930s, this was scandalous, due to pervasive racism. Nevertheless, his morals tell him to protect and serve every member of society, no matter the color of his or her skin.

When the narrator, Scout, asks her father why he's defending Robinson, he says, "You really never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view -- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Atticus was teaching her empathy and not to judge, both sound morals.

The Dark Witch

The Dark Witch begins a fanciful trilogy by Nora Roberts. In it, we read about an American girl named Iona who travels from Boston to Ireland to meet her cousin Branna, the renowned "Dark Witch." Together, Iona, Branna, and Branna's brother join forces to ward off an evil sorcerer who's been dogging the family for 800 years.

Branna and her brother specifically tell Iona not to cross over certain vines and enter into a part of the forest where the evil sorcerer could capture or injure her. One day, Iona hears her name being called and, in a trance-like state, starts to enter the forest. Luckily, she was able to break the trance before she entered the forest but, when she returned home, she said this to her cousin:

I should tell you something first. I don't break my word. It's important. But today, walking back from the stables, I started to go through those vines. I didn't mean to, but I thought I saw a light, and I heard my name, over and over. It was almost like the dream I had. I felt out of myself, pulled in. Like I needed to go through, to whatever waited. Kathel stopped me -- again. I don't break promises, Branna. I don't lie.

Here, we don't have to deduce her morals. They're clearly stated. She doesn't break her word; she doesn't lie. Her morals go on to build a story filled with bravery and courage. Perhaps the moral of the story is to always be brave and do the right thing, but that stems from Iona's sound morals.

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Aesop's Fables

The most prolific source of moral lessons in literature is Aesop's Fables. Let's see some of the teachings that lie within these popular tales:

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  • Appearances can be deceiving. - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

    Avoid a remedy that is worse than the disease. - The Hawk, the Kite, and the Pigeons

  • Don't make much ado about nothing. - The Mountain in Labor
  • Every man should be content to mind his own business. - The Seagull and the Kite
  • He is not to be trusted as a friend who mistreats his own family. - The Master and His Dogs
  • He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others. - The Sick Lion
  • He who once begins to tell falsehoods is obliged to tell others to make them appear true, and, sooner or later, they will get him into trouble. - The Monkey and the Dolphin
  • He who seeks to injure others often injures only himself. - The Horse and the Stag
  • It shows an evil disposition to take advantage of a friend in distress. - The Bull and the Goat
  • Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends. - The Bear and the Two Travelers
  • No one should be blamed for his infirmities. - The Old Hound
  • Pride goes before destruction. - The Fighting Cocks and the Eagle
  • The hero is brave in deeds as well as words. - The Hunter and the Woodman
  • There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth. - The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf
  • Those who assume a character which does not belong to them, only make themselves ridiculous. - The Crow and the Raven


What's Your Moral Code?

These examples of morals and moral lessons demonstrate that, although there are certain morals followed by society as a whole, morals are also highly personal. They're based on a personal belief system. In literature, often the moral of the story stems from a central character's set of morals, but it's interesting to see how someone's morals move the story along.

If you're looking to create an interesting story with relatable morals, take a look at these character trait examples. From them, you might be able to develop the central character's morals, thus creating a fanciful tale.


What are morals in literature? ›

The word 'moral' is generally defined as message that is conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader, or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim. A moral is a lesson in a story or in real life in the story of the novel.

What are the morals of society? ›

Morals are the prevailing standards of behavior that enable people to live cooperatively in groups. Moral refers to what societies sanction as right and acceptable. Most people tend to act morally and follow societal guidelines.

What are examples of morals? ›

Morality is the set of standards that dictate what is right and wrong in terms of behavior and beliefs. Examples of morality include being honest, treating others with respect, helping those in need, and adhering to laws and social norms.

What are examples of morals of stories? ›

Short Moral Stories For Kids
  • Moral: Don't be greedy, be content with what you have.
  • Moral: Think before you act.
  • Moral: Remain calm and use the presence of mind to get out of adverse situations.
  • Moral: Always tell the truth because a liar won't be trusted.
  • Moral: Hurtful words cause hurt feelings; Be yourself.

Why are morals important in literature? ›

A moral is the meaning or message conveyed through a story. The moral is the meaning that the author wants the reader to walk away with. They can be found in every type of literature, from poetry to fiction and non-fiction prose. Usually, the moral is not stated clearly.

What are 5 good morals? ›

Here are the ten essential moral values that build character and instil positive behaviour in kids.
  • Respect. ...
  • Honesty. ...
  • Compassion. ...
  • Hard Work. ...
  • Kindness. ...
  • Gratitude. ...
  • Sharing. ...
  • Cooperation.

Why are morals important in society? ›

Moral principles are important for society because they help people learn how to get along and live well with each other. They teach us that all human beings deserve the same rights, which is why it's not okay to discriminate against someone based on their ethnicity or race.

What is the most important of morality in the society? ›

Morality helps us distinguish between right and wrong; it helps us understand how to live a good life based on the values we hold sacred. It enables us to see the consequences of our actions, and it motivates us to do what is right. Without morality, we would be lost in a world of confusion and chaos.

What are the 10 morals? ›

11) Moral values ​​are good values ​​like kindness, generosity, honesty, loyalty, perseverance, self control and respect.

What are famous morals? ›

And, as predicted by the theory, these seven moral rules appear to be universal across cultures:
  • love your family.
  • help your group.
  • return favors.
  • be brave.
  • defer to authority.
  • be fair.
  • respect others' property.

How is moral used in everyday life? ›

Being treated morally increases happiness, and treated immorally decreases it. Personally engaging in moral acts increased people's sense of meaning and purpose in life. Among other findings, this study revealed that the religious and non-religious were equally likely to commit moral and immoral acts.

What are the 7 morals? ›

The rules: help your family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect others' property, were found in a survey of 60 cultures from all around the world.

What are moral values and give two examples? ›

Honesty, courage, and respect can be considered moral values but only when they are intended to protect life or enhance life for all. For instance: if you are being honest only when it suits you, then it's not a moral value. Everyone is capable of honesty, courage, and respect, even the most violent terrorists.

What are the top 3 moral values? ›

There are many different types of moral values, but some of the most important ones include honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, and forgiveness.

How does literature develop moral? ›

Through literature, children can observe other people's lives, experiences, and various versions of moral conflicts and learn to take others' perspectives. They can also recognize moral and ethical dilemmas by observing the behavior of story characters.

Does all literature have a moral? ›

While fables are rich with morals, other kinds of fiction don't necessarily rely on them. Instead, fiction should address a theme, a message that offers comments or insights about the human experience. These are not lessons, so much as underlying meanings.

What does moral mean in a story? ›

The moral of a story, event, or experience is the message that you understand from it about how you should or should not behave: And the moral of the story is that honesty is always the best policy. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases. Morality and rules of behavior.

What are today's moral values? ›

Relationship values include openness, trust, generosity and caring. Social values reflect how we relate to society. Social values include justice, freedom, respect, community, and responsibility.

What are the six universal moral values? ›

Based on the convergence of the three sources of standards, six universal moral values for corporate codes of ethics are proposed including: (1) trustworthiness; (2) respect; (3) responsibility; (4) fairness; (5) caring; and (6) citizenship.

What are the 4 main moral standards? ›

The Fundamental Principles of Ethics. Beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice constitute the 4 principles of ethics. The first 2 can be traced back to the time of Hippocrates “to help and do no harm,” while the latter 2 evolved later.

Are morals affected by society? ›

Society's moveable moral code

The mere presence of others can affect moral thinking.” With morality considered the glue that binds society, examining the social context of its influences is important to understand why people may react in ways that differ from their moral standpoint.

Are morals based on society? ›

Although some human traits, like skin color, are determined by our genes alone, morality is quite different in that it is also determined both by our nature and the society in which we live. Many moral rules and values vary between different cultures and also change over time.

Does society influence our morals? ›

Social norms, both implicit and explicit, guide individual behavior. From early stages of development and throughout life we learn to adapt our behavior according to social expectations and requirements, which may differ across cultures and may be relevant in various degrees for men and women of different ages.

How does morality develop in a society? ›

Morals are different for each culture. Moral development stems from the beliefs and values that are learned in each culture through interaction and experience. Through experience, an individual discovers what is right and wrong. People learn from parents, family, friends, peers, mass media, and interaction with others.

What are the big three of morality? ›

The "big three" of morality (autonomy, community, divinity) and the "big three" explanations of suffering.

What are 5 moral values in a student's life? ›

Moral values play an essential role in any student's life. They help build a positive character with traits such as compassion, respect, kindness, and humility. They can make students distinguish between right and wrong or good and bad.

Can you tell me a small moral story? ›

Never despise what we can't have; nothing comes easy. One day, a fox became very hungry as he went to search for some food. He searched high and low, but couldn't find something that he could eat. Finally, as his stomach rumbled, he stumbled upon a farmer's wall.

What are the three types of morals? ›

Moral absolutism, moral universalism, and moral relativism.

What are good personal morals? ›

Some code of ethics examples include integrity, selflessness, honesty, loyalty, equality, fairness, empathy, respect, and self-respect.

What is the best moral? ›

Classic Moral Stories in English
  • The Lion and The Mouse. When a lion was resting in the jungle, a mouse began racing up and down his body for amusement. ...
  • The Wolf and The Crane. ...
  • Cinderella. ...
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf. ...
  • The Fox and The Stork. ...
  • The Little Ginger Bread Man. ...
  • King Midas and The Golden Touch. ...
  • The Milkmaid and Her Pail.

What is a short story that expresses a moral message? ›

Fable: A short tale that teaches a moral. It usually has animals or inanimate objects as characters. Fairy Tale: A tale of fiction, usually for children, with fanciful characters.

What is the strongest moral theory? ›

Utilitarianism holds that the most ethical choice is the one that will produce the greatest good for the greatest number. It is the only moral framework that can be used to justify military force or war.

Which is the best definition of a moral? ›

ˈmär- : of or relating to the judgment of right and wrong in human behavior : ethical. : expressing or teaching an idea of right behavior.

What is moral values in English? ›

What are moral values? Moral values are the key components of a person's character. They are personality traits guiding people to make decisions and judgements according to their own sense of what is right and wrong, based on collective and individual experiences.

What is the moral of the story Cinderella? ›

The main moral or lesson that "Cinderella" teaches about how to behave in the world, is that kindness will be rewarded, whereas selfishness will not.

What are the four types of moral? ›

In discussing the application of morality, four aspects may be considered: religious moral- ity, morality and nature, individual morality, and social morality.

What is moral behavior? ›

Definition. To act according to ones moral values and standards. Children demonstrate prosocial and moral behavior when they share, help, co-operate, communicate, sympathize or in otherwise they demonstrate ability to care about others.

What are some popular morals? ›

Frequently listed moral values include: acceptance; charity; compassion; cooperation; courage; dependability; due regard to the feelings, rights, traditions and wishes of others; empathy; equality; fairness; fidelity; forgiveness; generosity; giving pleasure; good sportsmanship; gratitude; hard work; humility; ...

What are basic morals? ›

Moral principles are guidelines that people live by to make sure they are doing the right thing. These include things like honesty, fairness, and equality. Moral principles can be different for everyone because they depend on how a person was raised and what is important to them in life.

Why is morality important in our society? ›

Morality helps us distinguish between right and wrong; it helps us understand how to live a good life based on the values we hold sacred. It enables us to see the consequences of our actions, and it motivates us to do what is right. Without morality, we would be lost in a world of confusion and chaos.

What's the difference between morals and values? ›

People's values define what they want personally, but morals define what the society around those people want for them. Certain behaviors are considered to be desirable by a given society, while others are considered to be undesirable.

What are 10 moral values? ›

Gratitude, honesty, sharing, respect, cooperation, and compassion are some of the most important moral values that a child should have.


1. Aristotle & Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy #38
2. Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36
3. Metaethics: Crash Course Philosophy #32
4. Friedrich Nietzsche | Genealogy of Morals (part 1) | Existentialist Philosophy & Literature
(Gregory B. Sadler)
5. Moral Values in Literature
6. This Race Called Life - a beautiful inspirational short-story
(Dare to do. Motivation)
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