‘Ghost Patrol’ by Sinclair Lewis

Ghost Patrol by Sinclair Lewis, 1917

The magic trick:

Using a singularly odd character to comment on the trends of normal society

Truthfully, kind of an old-fashioned story that promises more mystery than it ever delivers.

Patrolman Dorgan’s getting old and perhaps his methods are too. So when he’s pushed into retirement, he decides to continue working his beat dressed in his old uniform.

It seems odd. He seems odd.

But his madness has a method in the story. Dorgan’s quirks only serve to highlight society’s shortcomings.

And that’s quite a trick on Lewis’s part.

The selection:

Dorgan nagged them. He came to headquarters again and again, till he became a bore, and the commissioner refused to see him. Dorgan was not a fool. He went shamefacedly back to his shack, and there he remained.

For two years he huddled by the fire and slowly became melancholy mad—gray-faced, gray-haired, a gray ghost of himself.

From time to time, during his two years of hermitage, Dorgan came out to visit his old neighbors. They welcomed him, gave him drinks and news, but they did not ask his advice. So he had become a living ghost before two years had gone by, and he talked to himself, aloud.

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