Harlan Ellison's personal beliefs about the ethical and moral behavior of humans in their various interactions have been made very clear in A Boy and His Dog, and time and again in the themes of his fiction, and overtly in his nonfiction writing. Ellison outlines the themes he writes about in this story, in a quote from The Harlan Ellison Hornbook: "My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration and ignoble deaths." Ellison goes on to say
that there is security in personal strength; that you CAN fight City Hall and WIN; that any action is better than no action, even if it's the wrong action; that you never reach glory or self-fulfillment unless you're willing to risk everything, dare anything, put yourself dead on the line every time; and that once one becomes strong or rich or potent or powerful it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak BECOME strong.
The author has made his personal beliefs the themes of this short novel. Through the experiences of Vic, the reader is shown that meek people do suffer and die, that Vic does find some security in his personal strength and his struggles against attacks in the communities he enters, that Vic is willing to take great risks to stay close to Quilla June, and finally that Vic decides to help his weak friend Blood survive, though he has no such compassion for Quilla June.
Though Vic is barely eighteen years old, it is clear when the story begins that he has been on his own for years. It is also clear that he could not have survived this long without the dog Blood. Not only are they an effective team for finding food and water and other essentials of life, but they converse together and give each other their attention and loyalty.
The dog is a far more complex and interesting character than the boy. Blood is better educated, from his training and experience and telepathic links with other men in the past, though it is not hard to be better educated than Vic, who is in many respects a feral child. As a medium-sized dog, Blood is tough and strong, a good partner for a skinny young man. With Blood's guidance, Vic is capable and knowledgeable in the hunting and scavenging skills needed to survive in this dangerous environment.
The reader might ask why Blood needs a human companion at all . . . but the boy finds them food, tends their hurts, can fire a gun, and can fight to defend his partner in the dangerous world that post-apocalyptic Arizona has become. But even more than that, Vic is someone to talk with and teach. Blood needs that, and he needs a human for him to be loyal to...
(The entire section is 1094 words.)