A Grave Misunderstanding by Leon Garfield
In A Grave Misunderstanding by Leon Garfield we have the theme of connection, suspicion, loneliness, loyalty, confusion, fear and paralysis. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed dog the reader realises after reading the story that Garfield may be exploring the theme of connection. The narrator’s owner and the ghost make a connection. It is as though the owner is flirting somewhat with the ghost. It might also be important to remember that the narrator’s owner does not know that the ghost is a ghost. Only the narrator can sense this and is naturally wary of the ghost because he is unsure of what her intentions may be. It would not be wrong to suggest that both the ghost and the narrator do not like each other. The ghost is only too well aware that the narrator knows she is a ghost and as such both the narrator and the ghost are suspicious of one another. Which in many ways acts as foreshadowing to the narrator’s eventual attack on the ghost.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the narrator’s owner does not pay heed to the narrator when he barks. It is as though the barking is an impolite hindrance for the owner and stopping him from engaging with the ghost. However the reality is the narrator is simply warning his owner of the dangers ahead. There is no sense that the owner has any intuition. Which may be the point that Garfield is attempting to make. He may be reversing the roles when it comes to intuition and allowing for the narrator to be clever than his owner. Who has literally fallen for the ghost. Which may suggest an element of loneliness in the owner’s life. There is no mention of him having a girlfriend or wife. This could be the reason as to why the owner is blindsided by the ghost. Though it is also entirely possible that Garfield is suggesting humans don’t see ghosts but dogs do. It is also interesting that the ghost is apprehensive of the narrator. She may possibly sense that the narrator knows she is a ghost. Whose intentions may not necessarily be desirable? She does after all give out about the narrator to his owner on several occasions.
The setting of the story may be important as the narrator’s owner most likely expected a quiet walk in the graveyard. He did not expect to be met by a ghost. Though in folklore graveyards are full of ghosts. Garfield possibly using the setting to raise the degree of fear for both the reader and then the narrator’s owner. They also say that a dog is a loyal friend and this is definitely something that the narrator displays throughout the story. He never leaves his owners side and eventually when all is about to be lost. He rescues his owner from the ghost. It is only then that the owner realises he has been talking to a ghost.
The end of the story is also interesting as the owner is not only afraid but he is confused too. He can’t understand or at least may not wish to understand what has just happened to him. So suspicious is the owner that an innocent bystander is assumed to be a ghost too. When the reality is she is not and is only admiring the narrator. If anything the owner has seen a slice of life that he never knew existed. Hence him being confused and afraid. Symbolically it might be important that the owner does not move from the bench he is seating on. Garfield may be suggesting that the owner is paralysed by fear. How affected by fear and confusion the owner may be is noticeable by the fact that while he is seating on the bench he is holding his head in his hands. Most likely in disbelief about what has just happened to him in the graveyard. It is not every day that a person walks their dog in a graveyard and encounters a ghost. Particularly one that may not have a person’s best interests at heart.