Instructor Abby Forster
Death is such an intense feeling to describe. Losing a loved one cannot always be put into words. However, in John Updike’s poem “Dog’s Death” (1953) he speaks of the loss of his best friend, family member, and companion that hurts your heart in the words he chose to explain this horrible feeling. I have lost a pet and it felt like I lost a family member after his death. I felt such turmoil and distress from it. Throughout this paper I will elaborate more on these intense feelings from my loss and will analyze the literary work from John Updike’s narrative poem “Dog’s Death”. I will explain why I selected this poem and what analytical approach was taken from me. I will evaluate the meaning of the poem “Dog’s Death” to show the readers how powerful the content, form, and style of the writer is. The family in this narrative poem loved their pet and grieved for their loss. I chose John Updike’s poem “Dog’s Death” since it grabbed my attention from a similar loss I encountered. It invoked an emotional feeling from the family’s loss and dog’s death. No one can ever understand this feeling or have these emotions unless they have been through a dog’s death or have even lost a family member. I lost my mother about two years ago from a long battle of diabetes and will always remember how it felt when I heard the news. My mother was my best friend and she will always be with me. I have also lost a dog that our family had for 10 years named Ode. She was also like a best friend and was so loyal to me in any situation that accrued. However, my family and I went on a vacation to California and while we were gone our family’s neighbor poisoned her with raw fish since she was getting into her trash can. This was like the use of personifications in Updike’s poem “She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.” (cited in Clugston, 2010, 1) Our veterinarian found this out by doing an autopsy on Ode similar to the poem also, “The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver”. (cited in Clugston, 2010, 2) Even though I was young I still to this day can feel the horrible emotion when I was told the news of my dog’s death. “Through literature we can explore human experiences deeply and search for meaning.” (cited in Clugston, 2010) While I read Updike’s poem “Dog’s Death” I applied a formalism approach for analyzing this narrative poem. It reflects the empathy, symbolism, and imagery to set the tone for this heartbreaking story. The author really made his life emotions come out into his story since he showed the reader how heart broke his family’s loss was due to their dog’s death. “Those who create literature may make some use of literal definitions and factual descriptions of things, but the appeal and magic in their works are fashioned by the word pictures, feelings, and exquisite detail they develop to let us know how particular things look in their minds.” (cited in Clugston, 2010) I feel that the poem used sympathy for the dogs suffering and created empathy for the family’s loss of a pet. The poem states “We found her twisted and limp but still alive. In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tired.” (cited in Florgund, 2011, 11) Therefore, the story gets to the point of going through this tragic event with their dog his dying on his lap. I felt the same when I was faced with my dog dying and had to be put down due to poisoning. The tone that is set with the reader makes you feel that our dogs will try and be there for you even if they are suffering and dying. It is a fear that also arises by making you as the owner feel like you have to take control and save this poor dog’s life. The poem states “And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.” (cited in Clugston, 2010, 14) This makes the reader feel emotions and sympathy for the other owner by letting you know she is in tears. I cried and cried after the loss of my dog Ode and could not cry enough to get her back. Since dogs do everything to protect their owners, owners feel the need to protect their dogs from dangerous situations. I know I was not there to protect my dog, but really regret it. I know I will make sure to look after my new dogs much more closely. At the end of the poem Updike explains with deep emotions and imagery that the dog tired to keep herself from not going to the bathroom on the floor, “Of diarrhea and had dragged across the floor.” (cited in Clugston, 2010, 19) This message and tone implied that from the training she had not to go to the bathroom on the floor, but to use the newspaper. With all her might she dragged herself to the newspaper and wanted to get her owners approval even though it was her last dying breath. This touched my heart since a dog will always try to get your trust and approval from a phrase “good dog”. John Updike really showed how a good dog could be and set the tone with the family’s heart breaking tragedy of their dog’s death. I can relate to this poem through his amazing words that were used of sympathy and great emotions from my dog’s death. The meaning of the poem really stands out with the imagery and fantastic style that he used. No owner should have to go through a pain like this since losing a dog is like a family member. Furthermore, this family showed how strong a bond can be with their pet and can bring great emotions forever.
Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into literature. Retrieved from: https://content.ashford.edu
John Updike. (2012). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1618647 March 10, 2011 by Florgund Retrieved from: