Snapshot of a Dog by James Thurber
In Snapshot of a Dog by James Thurber we have the theme of memories, loyalty, determination, love, connection and pride. Taken from his The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Thurber may be exploring the theme of memories. The narrator can recall with fondness the time that Rex was alive. He can remember with certainty all the fun he and his brothers had with Rex. This may be significant as there is a possibility that the narrator was so fond of Rex, and despite the passing of time, is unable to let go of him. Such is the pleasant feeling that the narrator gets from his memories of Rex. If anything the narrator might be so drawn to Rex because he was such a clever and loyal dog. He knew how to retrieve things, how to climb walls, how to swim and how to fight. Though he never started a fight himself he was still nonetheless prepared to fight when matters dictated he must.
What is also interesting about Rex is how determined he was. He learned to swim himself and would swim against the current just for fun. Though he was unable to climb twelve foot walls he still persevered till the narrator took him home. Rex was resilient and showed great strength. Something that is noticeable by the fact he could carry a ten foot long piece of wood. He was intelligent too. Knowing how to turn the wood and bring it through a gate. There is also a sense that Rex (and his owners) were proud. Rex would not let another dog take advantage of him, hence his marathon fight with another dog being only stopped by the fire department. As for Rex’s three owners. The narrator booms with pride throughout the story for Rex and his endeavours. In the narrator’s eyes Rex was more than just any kind of dog. He was family and with this came a lot of love and protection, not that Rex needed protection.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The ten foot piece of wood symbolizes not only how determined and intelligent Rex was but also how playful and mild mannered he was. Rex as mentioned never sought to fight anyone or another dog. He was committed to whatever cause his owners requested of him. The fact that Rex waited for all three brothers to see him before he died is also symbolic of just how loyal Rex was. He wanted to die in peace and that meant waiting to see all three brothers before he died. This also highlights how connected Rex was with all three brothers. He did not mind answering to more than one brother and treated each brother equally. Just as he was there for them in life he too was with them in death. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Rex died with dignity even if he lost his final fight.
The end of the story is also interesting as though Rex died he left a lasting impression on the brothers. Just as the narrator has never forgotten about him we are sure that neither has his two brothers. Rex provided each brother with loyalty, fun and mischief. The cabinet of drawers being an example of Rex’s mischief. If anything the narrator does not have a bad word to say about Rex such is the love he feels for him (even in death). It may also be significant that the narrator doesn’t mention if Rex was replaced by another dog. In all likelihood he wasn’t. Which would further highlight how special Rex was to the three brothers. He was irreplaceable. There was no other dog that could take his place. Rex was dearly loved by the brothers and he dearly loved them in return. He gave each brother joy and bemusement and asked for very little back. Leaving the reader feeling how lucky each brother must have been to have been loved by Rex. A lovable dog who gave each owner many hours and days of enjoyment.