Poetry Analysis – Dog’s Death (by John Updike)
The first reading of John Updike’s poem Dog’s Death revealed the story about the death of a dog and how this seems to be an important event in the poetic voice’s life. The importance of the dog is also reinforced by strong marks of personification in the poem. The dog was a much loved animal, treated almost as if it was part of the family.
After a close reading, it is possible to identify many characteristics hold by the poetic voice. After some references to the children and “my wife”, the speaker can be seen as an adult male, father and husband, not to mention the dog’s owner. Also, the tone of the speaker is a bit melancholic, as he grieves over his beloved pet.
The dog, described as “too young to know much” was still a puppy and that is probably why it didn’t have a name yet. Other elements that contribute to this idea are its illness once interpreted as a “shot reaction” – dogs are usually vaccinated when they are very young – and the fact that “she tried to bite” his hand, which is also a puppy’s behavior.
The use of the subject pronoun “she” referring to the animal suggests that it was part of the family. The fact that the speaker lets the dog rest in his lap, the mention of his wife’s tears and the lines “Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her” and “As we teased her with play” lead us to think that this was a special animal and that its death was a reason of sorrow to all the members of the family. Also, the expression “Good dog” at the end of the poem, in italics, might be supposed to sound like the last words that the speaker wanted to say to his dog, sort of honoring it at the end of its life.