by John Updike
Complete Explanation for the Poem included in the CHSE +2 Alternative English book ‘Approaches to English – II’.
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Questions for discussion
1. Why does the poem begin with the pronoun “She”? Would it make any difference if the poem began with “The dog……..”?
Answer – The dog was treated with great love and compassion by the owners.Through her shy, stoic and wise manners, she had carved a special place for herself in the hearts of its owners. They treated her with the same dignity as deserved by a human being. This is the reason, why the dog was addressed as ‘She’. Addressing her as ‘The dog’ at the start of the poem would have robbed of her of the respect and recognition she deserved.
2. How did the dog win everybody’s appreciation?
Answer – The dog seldom complained about her pain and distress. She didn’t bother anyone with her imperious barks, didn’t bite anyone out of anger, nor did she mess up the house despite her diarrhoea. She bore her death with rare forbearance. This is how she managed to endear herself to others.
3. What could “shy malaise” mean?
Answer – The dog had suffered grievous internal injuries. The pain must be excruciating for her. Yet, she managed to conceal her discomfort with remarkable ease. Clearly, she didn’t want to inconvenience her owners with ceaseless howls. This is the meaning of ‘shy malaise’.
4. What does the poet want to convey when he says – “…blood was filling her skin/And her heart was learning to lie down forever?
Answer – The dog’s liver had been seriously damaged, but her owners were unaware of it. They tickled her playfully, but she was unable to bear t. Internal hemorrhage led to blood piling up under her skin. She was, obviously, on the verge of death.
5. How does the poet describe the dying dog?
Answer – The dog was waging a futile battle against a very serious injury that had ripped her liver. She was drained, and devoid of any strength to behave normally. Yet, she remained still and composed. As a last gasp of her affection and gratitude, she lightly bit her keeper’s fingers. The end came soon after, before the car reached the hospital.
6. What does the expression “her frame” suggest?
Answer – Her ‘frame’ suggests her body.
7. Why did the dog drag herself to a newspaper on Sunday night?
Answer – The dog was remarkably well-mannered. She tried her utmost not to create a nuisance in her host’s home. She suffered from diarrhoea. She didn’t try to make a mess in the house, by sleeping on an old newspaper.
8. In stanza 4, the third line is : “Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her.” Who was “surrounded”? And by whom?
Answer – She was being taken to the hospital by her keepers. The husband and wife duo poured their affection on her to see that she was nursed back to health. But, her injury was to severe for cure. The dog was ‘surrounded’ by her hosts.
9. Comment on the speaker’s voice in “Dog’s Death”?
Answer – The speaker is overwhelmed with sympathy and grief for the dog that had no recourse to relief, because the injury was fatal. Luckily for her, she got a very kindly host family, whose care and compassion allowed her death with dignity.
10. Can you suggest an alternative title to the poem?
Ans: 1. A dying dog’s grace’ 2. ‘A stoic canine’