Dog's Death by John Updike Poem Meaning

The poem Dog’s Death, written by John Updike, takes you through the emotions of the love and loss of a family dog. The author uses tone and diction to make you emotionally attached to what the family is going through. “To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur. ” Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her, “nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared. ” (Lines 13-16). The author uses rhymes at the end of each line. This, I believe, is to up the intensity of how the dog died.

He also uses antithesis, opposing words, such as ‘upheld’ and ‘sank’.

Dog’s Death Poem Meaning and Analysis

The love the family has for this dog is so immense that they thought the act of caring would hopefully keep their dog hanging on until they got to the vet. Little did they know that while they were rough housing with their pet, she was slowly dying on the inside.

The word choice the author uses really brings out an easier way to comprehend what is going on without actually saying it. “And her heart was learning how to lie down forever. ” (Line 8). By using ‘lie down’ in this form, you then know that the dog is inevitably going to die because that’s a dog command you use on dogs to get them to rest.

To say the heart is going to lie down forever, you’re able to understand that she is slowly dying. A dog will never let their loyalty to their owners down, even when it comes to circumstances such as being nearly dead.

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Dog’s Death really touched me when I read it for the first time. His use of imagery in this poem is very touching. He makes the reader relate to the death of the dog by showing through his words the emotions of what the dog is going through as well as what his owners are feeling.

This paper will show how I think the author was trying to use imagery to show the love between the dog and his owners. The reader-response approach in literary criticism is where the author “finds a personal link or imaginative entry into a story, poem, or play” (Clugston, 2010). I believe that this approach would be the best type of literary criticism for this poem. “The author uses symbolism, empathy, and imagery designed to reveal the tone I observed. His use of personification gave the dog human like qualities.

He also used the personification to stress the emotional impact that losing a loved one had on the family. It touched my heart so much because over the years, we have had 8 dogs that have passed. It is a very emotional time and I think that in this poem where he states “And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears (John Updike, 1958)”, tells how much the dog was loved by his owners. It starts when you first bring the puppy home and go through the training process. The love grows unconditionally.

Like the poem states, “Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn (John Updike, 1958), she didn’t know any better to stay away from the street, so there for by being kicked or brushed by a car, no one will ever know. The puppy only knows that when she’s good, she gets praised, so she tries to impress its owners. The final lines in his poem create an initial feeling of sympathy, which is likely to become empathy if the reader reflects on the dog’s predicament in not being able to communicate its final struggle. ” To know that, even though the dog was deathly sick, she was still able to get to the newspaper to play (Clugston, 2010).

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Dog's Death by John Updike Poem Meaning. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

Dog's Death by John Updike Poem Meaning
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