Essay on Black Dog by Penelope Lively

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Essay on Black Dog
By Penelope Lively

Brenda Case is a mid-age housewife with personal problems. The English modern short story “Black Dog”, written by Penelope Lively, portrays Mrs. Case as being a frustrated woman with a peculiar manner, besides this she has difficulties to adapt within the society’s norms. This is probably because Brenda Case is going through the largest crisis in her life; the mid-life crisis. This gives Brenda some difficult factors to deal with. She is going through this emotional state of doubt and anxiety, realizing that her life is halfway over. Through the whole story Brenda is searching for her own sincere character, but has trouble finding it. As a defence mechanism, she supersedes all of her feelings. Was this the life she really would have wanted? The Black Dog symbolizes her “shadow life”.

We’re situated in a suburb of England; the Case family is a regular middleclass family. Mrs. Case, who is the principle character, is a housewife and her husband, John, makes the money. Their life is characterized by the static tedious daily routine; her doing the shopping and him attending the job. One day Brenda starts seeing a large Black Dog lying in their front yard. She constantly has a fear that the dog is going to eat her, basically paranoia of the wild animal. However, Mr. Case cannot see the dog. He even asks all the neighbours, but they haven’t seen the dog either. The colour of the dog should illustrate bad omen and negativity, but was this really signifying bad omen or was all this commotion simply caused by Brenda’s alter ego or her introverted state?

As mentioned the dog symbolizes Brenda’s shadow life; the psychological term of the life that she could have had or if you live in the shadow of someone else. Mrs. Case obviously did not have a dream of becoming a housewife but she first realized her own character now. Perhaps she was pressurized from outside influences on what to do. This is also shown when Brenda follows...
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