‘Uncle Isaiah’ by Russel Kirk

This week’s story was “Uncle Isaiah” by Russel Kirk. The story is collected in Ancestral Shadows.

The story follows a small family business owner who appeals to his uncle Isaiah to help avoid paying for “protection” from a recently released criminal in the North End.

In the story, Uncle Isaiah is both an agent of God and representative of God himself. He lives “above” the Greek shop in an upper apartment. No one has seen him except his nephew, who only catches a glimpse of him.

The conscience of the main character is more developed that the typical character (or even the typical person these days). He refuses to pay for protection because it would be wrong to do so. He knows this without argument, and insists on this principle in spite of the advice of all of his family and friends. And it his conscience and courage that ultimately rids the North End of a criminal. Ultimately it is not the government–who irresponsibly released the criminal before his sentence was paid–but the individual who preserves the common good of the North End in the story. But it only takes one courageous person, which is a hopeful thought.

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About Joseph Burke

Economist
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