Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Many of R. K. Narayan’s novels and short stories paint vivid pictures of the imaginary South Indian village of Malgudi and the small world of little boys. The descriptive realism of the setting and the psychological realism of the characters convincingly unfold human predicaments and the choices that people make. Narayan’s protagonists are confronted by circumstances that they either accept and learn to live with or take on as a challenge and endeavor to change. Such situations, naturally, reveal character, and, quite often, also an attitude toward life. “Uncle” is a story that conforms to this endearing pattern of universal relevance.

In this story, the boy, a mild and passive character, lives with a painful situation for many years before life, not he himself, brings about the final resolution—his uncle’s death and his own substantial inheritance from his uncle of the money that was most probably his by right anyway. As the boy is only a first-grader when the crisis occurs, and as the crisis is of a magnitude that bears comparison with Hamlet’s dilemma, the boy’s response seems wholly credible. A scared and hungry little boy is likely to run home to a villain, even if that villain has killed his parents, if the villain is the only father he knows, and the world to him is a hostile place.

What is intriguing is that even as a grown-up with a college education, the protagonist does not confront Uncle or take him to court. A rare...

(The entire section is 510 words.)