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A Dog's Tale by Mark Twain

A Dog's Tale (1903)

by Mark Twain

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This book was part of my AMS syllabus. Here is the review I gave.
I found “A Dog’s Tale”, by Mark Twain, hard to read. Whether it is a movie or a book, I cannot bear the thought of harm coming to an animal. I will not watch a movie if it involves animal cruelty.
Mark Twain writes this short story as told by, Aileen Mavourneen, a Presbyterian. Her mother was a Collie and her father a St. Bernard. As I read the story, I could picture Aileen as a little girl, explaining how she admires her mother’s knack for an extensive vocabulary. The Collie even used her knowledge of words and phrases as weapons to defeat other dogs, making them feel ashamed and inferior to her. It is funny to imagine a dog following the children to Sunday school, to pick up on new words, and use them however she chose. She was intelligent and her Presbyterian puppy loved her.

Eventually, as the puppy grew up, she was sold to a family, and had to leave her mother and father. Her mother gave her important advice, and this was “In memory of me, when there is a time of danger to another do not think of yourself, think of your mother, and do as she would do.” Of course Aileen would obey her mother. She became part of this new family and was happy there. Mr. & Mrs. Gray became her owners and did not rename her, which made her happy. She lived with them and their daughter Sadie, and new baby.

A time came when a fire broke out in the baby’s room, and at first Aileen began to run away from it until she remembered her mother’s words. Aileen ran back to the bassinet and dragged the baby out of harms way. The master seeing this, thought Aileen meant harm to the baby, which was not the case. Mr. Gray began striking Aileen with his cane. Aileen escaped to the garrett where she lay in pain from her beating. She heard a commotion going on for a time and this caused her great fear. Eventually it stopped. Aileen thought she would starve to death in the garrett, without food or water, until she heard Sadie’s voice crying for her. Then she knew everything was alright, and she could go back to the way things were.

Aileen had a puppy and this gave her great happiness. Mr. Gray, being the scientist he was, wanted to experiment on Aileen’s puppy, to determine whether a certain injury to the brain would produce blindness or not. After the experiment, the puppy lay dying. Aileen ran over to her and licked the blood and comforted it with a mother’s touch. She went with the footman, to bury the puppy, and Aileen expected the puppy to grow up from the dirt as seeds grow. After much time passed, Aileen’s heart broken, she could not eat, but cried every night for her puppy, and eventually she was gone too.

Mark Twain apparently felt that language was under appreciated and language of course, was very instrumental in how Mark Twain communicated. It was humorous to imagine a dog showing off to other dogs, using big words that she really did not understand. It was humorous to just imagine a dog speaking. By using the Collie to misrepresent words, he attempts to prove his point. Mark Twain would be appalled at how language has evolved or rather not evolved since his demise. Mark Twain was an animal activist, early on. He did not believe in experimentation on animals. This was very humane of him, and something that Mr. Gray lacked; compassion.In this story, Aileen shares her emotions with us in such a way, it seems human. It is so pitiful that you can feel her suffering. I found “A Dog’s Tale” to be briefly humorous and also pathos.

It is a quick read with a lesson to learn. ( )
  Spiritus3 | Apr 7, 2015 |
heartbreaking ... ( )
  beebowallace | Dec 30, 2013 |
it's a very nice novel

  vipulmalhotra | Mar 23, 2010 |
Mark Twain's story A Dog's Tale first appeared in Harper's magazine in the early 1900's. It's a short story, about 50 pages it tells the story of a dog growing up with her family and the irony of being truly good in an indifferent, often cruel world. The story has Mark Twain's humor, but also a lesson in irony. I really enjoyed this story. ( )
  Cailin | Feb 14, 2010 |
The beginning of the story is humourous. The middle and end will make you cry. ( )
  ktoonen | Mar 18, 2009 |
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My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian." Who but Mark Twain could have penned such an opening? This 1903 story of courage, cruelty, and misunderstanding, narrated by a household pet, appeared in 1904 as a pamphlet for the National Anti-Vivisection Society.… (more)

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