A Dog’s Life by Mulk Raj Anand
In A Dog’s Life by Mulk Raj Anand we have the theme of pity, love, connection, kindness, cruelty, acceptance and empathy. Taken from his Selected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that the narrator may pity Spotty. Spotty has been discarded by society and is reliant on the kindness of people like the narrator who has empathy for Spotty’s plight. He knows how difficult life can be, particularly for a dog that looks like Spotty. In general most people ignore Spotty because of his appearance. He is the worse for ware and not the type of dog that many might consider to be a pet. However it is noticeable that the narrator does give Spotty water and some biscuits. This sign of kindness may be important as it connects the narrator to Spotty. Also when the Gurkha kicks and injures Spotty. The narrator can feel for Spotty. As too can others like the reader. In fact the narrator is the only one in the story who shows Spotty any type of compassion or empathy. If anything he is the only one who really shows kindness to Spotty due to the fact that he pities Spotty.
Spotty’s life is a difficult one. He is at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to others helping him and if it was not for the narrator he would have died sooner than he did. It is through the narrator’s generosity that Spotty lived as long as he did. Though he has received no help form others. The beggar for example scorns the narrator for allowing Spotty to drink form his bowl. It is as though the beggar cannot see how similar his own life may be to Spotty’s. Spotty in reality spends his entire day looking out for scraps of food that may or may not come to him. Likewise the Gurkha’s cruelty towards Spotty is uncalled for and results in the first serious and detrimental injury that Spotty receives. Spotty is no longer able to defend himself against attack from others. The boy on the bicycle being another example. If anything nobody gives due consideration to Spotty or to his right to be able to be like others and beg. He is not as forceful as the beggar might be and he is in no way dangerous to anybody.
What is also interesting about the story is that the narrator though fond of Spotty is also realistic. Something that is noticeable when Spotty is attacked by the Gurkha. He knows he can’t challenge the Gurkha and has to accept what has happened. This may be important as the narrator knows that he is looking after a stray dog that may have had previous experience with the Gurkha. It would be a totally different matter if the narrator owned the dog. Then he could rightfully challenge the Gurkha. Who by all means has acted cruelly. Though he himself may not think so. In many ways Anand is placing a value on life (a dog’s life) and Spotty falls under the category of being a nuisance because he has no owner and is searching for food too. In places he should not be searching but these are the only places that Spotty has to look for food. It also has to be remembered that Spotty is a street dog so he is very much alone. He will attach onto any person who helps him as he knows they might be able to better his life.
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator appears to accept what Spotty has been killed. He may not like it but he still nonetheless accepts it. Some in life will make it through to the next day. However this is not the case for Spotty. There is also no doubting that the narrator will miss Spotty despite the troubles that Spotty brought upon the narrator. They became friends in a hostile world. A world that does not take kindly to stray dogs. Throughout the story the narrator has tried to keep some distance between himself and Spotty but when Spotty is killed. It is clear that the narrator loved Spotty for who he was. A mongrel with no home and with no one to help him. That is till the narrator took an interest and tried to help Spotty. There is also no doubting that both the narrator and Spotty made a connection with one another in the short amount of time they were together. The good-natured narrator saw Spotty’s difficulties and wanted to help. Unlike others who considered Spotty to be a nuisance and as such were cruel to him.