Description of the Theme
The short story written by John Updike entitled “Dog’s Death” centers on unraveling vividly the excruciating pain described as quietly endured by a beloved pet dog prior to the eventual and inevitable demise and the surrounding love and affection felt for the dog as they tried their best to address the dog’s dilemma. As noted in chapter 7, “theme in fiction is associated with something abstract, something broad: The theme in a story is associated with an idea that lies behind the storyis a representation of the idea behind the story” .
Identification of at Least Two of the Literary Elements that Contribute to the Theme
The mentioned theme in the short story was exemplified through the use of symbolism. It was asserted that “story writers want you to understand and learn from the imaginary world they are creating, they find ways to make the theme stand out clearly, and they use symbols to convey feelings, describe settings, present characters, heighten conflict, and create various moods” . In this particular short story, the author, John Updike, used several symbols. As a literary element, symbols were defined as “something that has a literal identity but also stands for something else—something that is widely understood and has been developed over a long period of time or by common agreement” . A symbol that was used in the story to convey meanings and to create specific moods is the use of the newspaper. As disclosed, “too young to know much, she was beginning to learn To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor And to win, wetting there, the words, "Good dog! Good dog!"” (Updike, 1958, lines 2-4). Thus, the newspaper symbolized a training tool for the dog to serve as an appropriate place for excrements. In addition, it conveyed the meaning that the dog was still a puppy, and that by successfully reaching the paper to serve its purpose, members of the family have rewarded the god with ample commendation and acknowledgement of praise.
Another literary element is the setting, or the place and time within which the story evolved . In the short story, it was clear that the setting was in the home of the owners of the dog. The time was immediately after breakfast on a Monday morning. This was validated as the author averred that “Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest's bed” (Updike, 1958, lines 9-10).
Explanation on How the Selected Literary Elements Affect the Narrative Theme
The selected literary elements, the setting and symbolism assisted in confirming that the dog was still a puppy who was greatly loved by the members of the family. This was evident from the way that author narrated how they have observed the pain that the puppy went through from the time they had the dog autopsied, until the time of its untimely death. Likewise, the love was also clearly exhibited through describing the author and narrator’s wife as shedding tears during the time that both spouses were on the verge of rushing the puppy to the vet in their vehicle: “In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears” (Updike, 1958, lines 12-14). Also, the newspaper symolized triumph of the dog as it tried to reach the newpaper to please the owners, even within the midst of its most difficult pain: “Back home, we found that in the night her frame, Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog” (Updike, 1958, lines 16-20).The love was also clearly evident through the setting as both spouses allegedly rushed the puppy to the vet on a Monday morning, supposedly a time when they could have been going on with their regular course of activities. Overall, even with impending death, the dog was surrounded with love and care until the very end.
Chapter 7: Short Story: Theme and Symbolism. (n.d.).
Home of Literary Devices. (2013). Retrieved from literarydevices.net: http://literarydevices.net/
Updike, J. (1958). Dog's Death. Retrieved from litgothic.com: http://www.litgothic.com/PDFOther/updike_dogs_death.pdf