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Bob, a Dog

Reading Lee Smith’s “Bob, a Dog” was quite the experience in the first couple of pages into the story. “Quite the experience” meaning confusing. With Smith’s switching from Cheryl’s (the protagonist’s) memories and thought processes and back to present events, I found it difficult, initially, to keep up. Further into the story, I finally caught up to these exchanges and found them helpful to the story and an interesting way for the narrator to reveal any back story.

Aside from the style of Smith’s storytelling, I also found quite interesting the different devices she used to convey setting throughout the story. By describing a character’s qualities and appearance, she allowed the reader not only to visualize what the subject looks like but also how he or she acts. For instance, when we are first introduced to David (page 1), Cheryl’s ex-husband, we see him via Cheryl’s memory; we learn that he was a shy, scholarly man who had worn the same plaid shirt for more than twenty years. Automatically, I envisioned a perhaps average-height man who appears shorter only because of a slump he habitually formed from his bashful character, and he wears spectacles and a worn and faded plaid, collared lumberjack-esque shirt.

Smith also uses a character’s actions to create setting throughout Bob, a Dog. At the closing of the story (page 25-6), Cheryl is shown seated on her porch after the exhausting task of fixing Bob’s pen and hauling the giant back into it; she is sipping a few wine coolers and then watching without haste or worry Bob digging his way out of his pen again and running out into the street. This not only explicitly creates a mental image of Cheryl’s actions but also suggests her feelings, which I think is a great achievement by the author. Smith’s exchanges between Cheryl’s thought process and recollections and her use of devices other than actual place, such as characterization and action, left me massively impressed.

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