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Dog's Best Friend?: Vivisecting the "Animal" in Mark Twain's "A Dog's Tale"

By Matthew Guzman

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“A Dog’s Tale” encapsulates the duality that the domesticated dog as both loyal “friend” and dependable scientific “instrument” denotes. Twain paints a dark portrait of man’s association with “beast.” Additionally, the story presents much more than a simple anthropomorphic tale. Although the nonhuman narrator has humanlike characteristics, one is always aware that Aileen Mavourneen is a dog. Nowhere is this divide more apparent than in the narrator’s failed attempts to “understand” the language and behavior of the human characters. The tale epitomizes the dogma of man’s rule over “lower” creatures, but it does not fully reaffirm these accepted beliefs. Rather, the story problematizes our position relative to these “lower creatures,” most notably through the inconsistencies between language, interpretation, and physical response; the story also forces readers to confront the inconsistent treatment of “man’s best friend” as well as humanity’s privileged locus as reasoning animals.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Publication Title The Mark Twain Annual
Volume 13
Pages 29-42
Publisher Penn State University Press
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Matthew Guzman (2018), "Dog's Best Friend?: Vivisecting the "Animal" in Mark Twain's "A Dog's Tale","

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  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Anthropomorphism
  4. Dogs
  5. Literature
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  1. open access