I am reading Garth Stein’s novel Racing in the Rain. I am drawn in by the narrator, a dog named Enzo. As I read, I remember two other works in which dogs narrate–Billy Collins’ poem “The Revenant” and Eugene O’Neill’s essay, “The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill.” In all of these writings, what is it I am responding to?
I begin to wonder about this particular use of persona. I type the words “animal persona in literature” into my web browser. For a reason I probably won’t ever figure out, Google’s list of links leads to a blog by the short story literary theorist Charles E. May. He has a passion for teaching the short story as “a language-structured examination of life” that people read to “understand the complexity of what is human.” We find this out best, he says, when we understand “how an author uses language to create what is human in a story.”
How does writing in a canine persona, I start to muse, help the three authors I am thinking about tell stories of human complexity?
I read from another link: persona in literature:
The voice “through which the author speaks…with a sense of knowledge and emotion only one with a firsthand view of the action could depict.”
I find copies of Collins’ poem and O’Neill’s essay and thumb through the pages I’ve read in Stein’s book. I begin to examine the dog narrators’ words in light of how they serve a reader’s understanding of humanity.
Stein’s dog Enzo had been with his master Denny, a race car driver, a long time, when Denny
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