A Man and His Dog by Katherine Mansfield
In A Man and His Dog by Katherine Mansfield we have the theme of appearance, acceptance and satisfaction. Taken from her The Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Mansfield may be exploring the theme of appearance. For the first paragraph of the story Mansfield goes into great detail to describe Potts. This may be significant as the narrator is lead to believe that Potts is a timid man who is under the control of others. Those others do not recognise Potts as being anything substantial. If anything he is believed to be inferior to others based solely on his appearance. Which may lead some readers to suggest that Potts is a man who not only acts timidly but is an easy touch to others. When the reality is Potts, like Lino, may not be suitable for confrontation. He may simply be a quiet man who does not believe his appearance is important nor should it be something he is judged by. Potts in reality may simply be seeking a quiet life.
Which is not the life that Potts knows. Particularly when it comes to Mrs Potts. Mrs Potts though only briefly mentioned is important because of her actions. She believes that she is dying and as such calls out the name Robert (a previous lover). Though this might disturb many men, Potts believes it to be a sign that his wife is getting better. At no stage in the story does Potts not accept the position he finds himself in. He takes nothing personal and moves forward at all times. Something that makes the reader realise that Potts is the only round character in the story. Rather than be upset by his wife’s actions. Potts willingly and easily accepts them. He knows that he is not loved by his wife and that their marriage may be one of convenience. Mrs Potts convenience. Potts’ role is to provide his wife with comfort rather than affection. Something which Mrs Potts may not be open to unless the affection is coming from Robert.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which is significant. The bus for example in many ways mirrors Potts marriage. It too has broken down but like the bus it can be briefly repaired before it is completely useless. The people who travel on the bus may represent society and society’s view of people like Potts. They judge people like Potts based solely on appearance rather than on character. If Potts where to be judged by character it is possible that people would realise that he is a good man and that his appearance should not be taken into consideration. Though this may be difficult for some people to do. Lino may represent Potts knowing that he is not a fighting man, just as he describes Lino as not being a fighting dog. This is important as it suggests again that Potts accepts the position he finds himself in. Regardless of the circumstances he might find himself in. Potts is prepared to be second best in his marriage in order to keep the peace. If anything Potts is looking for a simple, uncluttered life.
The end of the story is also interesting as Potts through talking to Lino is trying to instill his will and character onto Lino. Whether Lino understands Potts is difficult to say. Mansfield does not lead the reader to a clear understanding of how Lino may feel about Potts advice or warning. Instead Mansfield ends the story with an optimism that Potts words may be heeded by Lino. The optimism being wholly Potts’. Which may be important as Potts never loses his optimism in the story. Whether it is while he is waiting for the bus to be fixed so that he can travel home or talking to Lino. There is a sense that Potts is optimist about the present and the future. This optimism driven by Potts ability to accept the conditions he finds himself in. Though he may be unloved by Mrs Potts this does not bother Potts. He is content to live his life as he is. Going to work and returning home to Lino. A dog who may or may not understand his master.