John Updike’s Dog’s Death
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I chose John Updike’s Dog’s Death because it grabbed my attention and invoked an emotional reaction to the dog’s untimely death. I dislike dogs and poems but somehow the author had me smelling, seeing, hearing and feeling what he was saying. The poem is in narrative form and the story flows from beginning through to the middle and to the end. The setting was the narrator’s home where the dog was a valuable family member. He used personification; “She must have been kicked….,” to portray the dog as a valuable family member. His use of personification gave the dog human like qualities. He also used the personification to stress the emotional impact that losing a loved one had on the family. He started with imagery using the narrative form and he continued using it throughout the piece to created visuals to set a tone of sadness, grief and empathy In lines one to three, he used imagery to introduce the dog, and to let the reader know that the newspapers on the kitchen floor were her toilet training devices.
The image also conjured up a level of sympathy in the reader, lines one and two also told the reader that the dog was just a puppy therefore she was a recent addition to the family. “She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car. Too young to know much,” cruelty to animals is an experience that is common to both the author and many of his intended readers. There are several themes that author skillfully weaved into the piece. The obvious themes are; death, love and loss as portrayed in lines fourteen and fifteen, “And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears. Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,” Love in this case wa s not enough to resurrect their dead dog. Updike wanted his readers to experience his deep sense of loss. The dog died in his lap, on the way to the vet’s (line 12) and he went on further to say “Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her, Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared,” This use of strong verbs; sank, stiffening, disappeared creates a picture of the process of dying as it took place in his lap. . His use of imagery in lines seventeen to twenty is most profound; “Her frame drawing near dissolution, had endured the shame of diarrhea…..to a newspaper…..Good Dog.” This reader was pulled into that house at this point and had to re-read.
Clugston, W. R., (2010). Journey Into Literature, San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education Inc.