All About a Dog by A.G. Gardiner
In All About a Dog by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of determination, class, resentment, control, power, defiance and change. Taken from his Leaves in the Wind collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of determination. The bus conductor is determined that the woman with the dog should bring the dog to the top of the bus. He has rules that must be adhered to and he is certain that the woman will follow them. The woman on the other hand has other ideas and it’s not prepared to change her mind (at least not for now). This may be important as Gardiner may be introducing the theme of class with the woman representing the upper classes and being obstinate to directions from someone of a lower class than her. She too has rules that she will not break for the time being and only changes her mind when she feels utterly defeated by the conductor. Who throughout the story appears to be happy with the fact that he is in control of the situation and that others must adhere to his will. Most likely something that is rare for the conductor.
There is also a sense that the conductor has a chip on his shoulder. Something that is clearer to the reader by way of his enthusiasm to impose his rules on the woman. It is as though the conductor resents the position he finds himself in (class wise) and as such he is waiting for any moment that may arise in whereby he can exert power. The fact that he tries to move the woman upstairs might be seen as gender biased as one does not expect the conductor to do the same should a man come onto the bus with a dog. If anything both the conductor and the woman have an immense and immediate dislike for each other. With issues of gender and class bias being raised. It might also be important that everybody who is on the bus supports the woman and her refusal to go to the top of the bus. However it is more telling that the same individuals lose patience and end up getting off the bus altogether. The sense of unity does not last.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The evening is bitterly cold which in many ways mirrors how the conductor feels towards the woman with the dog. The woman’s tone with the conductor at the start of the story also suggests a tone of defiance. She is not prepared to do as she is told. Perhaps again Gardiner is suggesting that those who are upper class consider themselves above others. Though at the same time travelling by bus would be considered a great leveller for those of the upper classes. Usually one would expect someone who is upper class to travel by private vehicle. The fact that the woman has a cough could also be significant as Gardiner might be using the cough to place a focus on the woman’s voice. She has one and is prepared to use it. Only when it is really necessary does she go to the top of the bus and even then she tries to go back down the stairs and return to her original seat beside her friends.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator engages with the conductor and explains to him that he took his rules too seriously and by doing so he became part of the problem too. The narrator has an alternative take on how things should have happened and it is interesting that the conductor does not necessarily disagree with the narrator. This could be important as it suggests that the conductor has the ability to change. That he may not react as he did should he be faced with the same problem again. If the conductor has changed so too has the woman with the dog. She does not question the conductor on the second occasion when he tells her to go back to the top of the bus. Which may be the point that Gardiner is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that people regardless of their original differences can change and act differently when faced with a familiar problem. It is the spirit of the rule which is important for Gardiner and knowing when to be stricter and knowing when to be lenient.