Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Dog's Tale, Mark Twain

Image from Wikipedia.org
Mark Twain is surely one of America's best popular writers. He often skirted along freedom of the press and censorship. "A Dog's Tale" is a clever short story which works to show the intelligence of a dog and the poor reply that the dog so often receives.

Released in 1904 in Harper's Magazine, according to Wikipedia.org, it became an example against what the treatment of animals by certain types of scientists and, in particular (also according to Wikipedia's article) the antivivisectionist movement. Later it would be revised and become a book.

It is a sad tale of a dog's life. Initially, Mark Twain introduces us to the intelligence of the animal. The animals understand certain words, pretend to understand more complex words, and communicate in somewhat simplistic fashion with each other. They meet, converse, and think, in much the same degree as a regular person. However, there are many things that I felt were relatively similar. That is to say, too often talk about being expert in many things with which they are not. Many people use words and participate in conversations which they do not have the knowledge or intellectual wherewithal to participate in. Though, I am not saying that we should not try to strive above our own abilities.

However, shortly, we arrive at the irony of the man's inhumanness and the dog's humaneness. The dog from whom the perspective is written manages to save the master's child from a fire by dragging it from the nursery. The master, not knowing that there was a fire, struck the dog so severely that she would never completely recover her leg and would forever hobble around on three. Soon it is discovered that there is a fire in the nursery, and that she saved the baby.

No effort is made to help the dog with her injury. What's worse, is that her puppy becomes the cruel experiment of her master in front of his friends. The puppy is cruelly killed in front of the narrator. Then, a servant takes the body of her puppy to the yard to bury her. The dog remembers how a bush grew from a seed, and so expects the puppy to sprout from the earth. This never happens, and it's assumed that the dog dies waiting for her puppy to be resurrected. (Gutenberg.org) It's noted by the servants of the household that while the master's child was saved by the dog, the master killed the dog's puppy.

It is well worth reading this story.


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  2. I just read this story. I had trouble going to sleep afterwards. I understand his motive, but did it make a difference. Even today, we often treat our animals like they are throw aways and can be replace at any time. I have not read a lot of Mark Twain's material but this one will not be one I read again.

  3. Yes, it was a terrible tragedy that keeps repeating itself. However, apparently this short story was written to promote animals' rights. It did have some effect.

    I have read a number of Twain's short fiction when I was a teenager, as well as a novel of his in an American literature class. I think his approach to this story was to try to put us in the shoes of the dog, and that's why it feels very uncomfortable what happens in the story.

  4. well mark twain nicely conveys a message to human beings indirectly that how cruel they are.and secondly he wants to awake the modern man that is neglecting the realities of life and busy in materialistic life and gathering money.noor