Dark Brown Dog by Stephen Crane Essay
Dark Brown Dog by Stephen Crane
_A Dark Brown Dog_ is a short story by the praised realistic author Stephen Crane. Within this piece, Crane takes a different approach to the boy and dog theme by creating an atmosphere of abusiveness. This trait is well incorporated by Crane and can be easily found within the characters that Crane had carefully crafted. Specifically, the abusive trait can be found in varying levels within the father and the young boy. And while the prominence of this sadistic trait remains in the story, the trait helps create a a change in boy and dog’s relationship. In the story, the father’s presence is accompanied by and is synonymous with sadism and abuse. The first incident in which the father appears is when the boy first brings the dark brown dog to his house. Naturally, the family clamors about the dog and scrutinize it to the point where the boy is protesting loudly as to keep the dog. At that moment the father walks into the house in the midst of the yelling and, “perceives that it would amaze and anger everybody if such a dog were allowed to remain, he decided that it should be so” (Crane 3).
This reflects how the father takes enjoys forcing the family to put up with the presence of the unwanted dog. The incident is also representative of how the father finds pleasure in others suffering, a tenet of sadism. While this incident may not seem to define the father as an abuser, it remains as a hint of the full extent of the father’s sadistic nature. In fact, the entire magnitude of the father’s abusiveness is encapsulated by the turning point of the story in which the boy and the dog come home from one of their adventures only to arrive to the sight of the father throwing cooking utensils in a drunken rage.
The sight drove the boy to seek shelter from under a table while the dog trounced around the room excited by the spectacle, unaware of the danger. The dog’s vulnerability and naivety led the father to take advantage of it as he beat the dog with a pan, force the dog into submission, and eventually, “swung him two or three times hilariously about his head, and then flung him with great accuracy through the window” (Crane 6). The father was clearly enlightened by his ability to prey upon a defenseless dog and to murder him without a second thought. Not only that, but this incident showed how father truly wanted to make the dog suffer as the father unnecessarily twirled the dog around before killing him.
To a lesser extent, the boy also exhibits the abusive trait that is found in his father and instead of inflicting pain on everyone, the boy abuses the dog. For instance, when the boy and the dog first encounter one another, the dog acts playfully with the boy who promptly hit the dog and sent him into a prayer like stance showing the dog’s submission. This submission was foud comical as it was stated that, “the child was greatly amused and gave him little taps repeatedly, to keep him so” (Crane 1). Superficially, this depicts the child simply amusing himself. However, there exists an underlying layer that reveals the sadistic trait of the child as he finds delight in the dog’s pain and fright. It shows how the child extracts a feeling of superiority over the dog which Crane further establishes in his story by describing the child as a terrible despot and the dog as a subject.
In addition to this occurrence, the child had displayed his abusive nature on a separate instance. Crane describes this instance as a general and recurring case as he describes how, “Sometimes, too, the child would beat the dog, although it is not known that he ever had what truly could be called a just cause” (Crane 4). What is established here is that the child harms the dog for no reason. Through the conclusion derived previously, it is inferred that the child had done this deed because he found pleasure in exerting his might over the dog. This reestablishes how the child exhibits the sadistic traits which his father also bears, only to a lesser degree.
Pointedly, Crane crafts the boy to be reflective of his father’s habits. This is done to show the cyclical nature of abuse and how the ones being abused may develop sadistic traits themselves. Regardless, of this fact Crane proceeds to simultaneously illustrate how abuse can shape a relationship. Specifically, the relationship being altered one existing between the boy and the dog. As noted, the boy and the dog first start off with an abusive relationship with power and dominance being held by the boy and a subservient role taken upon by the dog. This is perfectly encapsulated by the fact the dysfunctional family of the boy would often go out of their way to harm the dog and as a result, “The child became a guardian and friend” (Crane 3), to the dog.
This is descriptive of how the abusive nature of the boy’s home had forced him to take upon the role of a protector. What’s more, is that the abusive atmosphere of his home had led the boy to grow a fondness for his new companion and to strive to protect to dog instead of letting him befall to harm. What solidifies this conclusion is the ending of the story, after the father threw the dog out the window, the family had found the boy, “seated by the body of his dark brown friend” (Crane 6). When taken a step back, what this shows is how the abuse and sadism surrounding the boy and the dog had altered their relationship from an abusive one to one based upon loyalty and friendship.
In conclusion, within the 6 short pages of a _Dark Brown Dog_, Stephen Crane creates characters with a shared and prominent trait of abusiveness. These characters were primarily the father, and to a lesser, but still significant extent, the boy. And while this trait had shaped the characters, it also played a role in defining the course of the boy and dog’s relationship. Case in point, the abusive trait in the story had been integral to _Dark Brown Dog._