Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In her author’s note to The Best American Short Stories, 1991, in which “Dog Stories” appeared, Francine Prose said she “wanted to write a story about a wedding that was not exactly an expression of joy and hope for the future, but rather of some darker and less sanguine sense of acceptance.” “Dog Stories” is darker than a reader might expect from a story taking place at a wedding and the reception following it, because the author focuses on the ambivalence the central character feels and the revelations about her life that she accepts. Christine is not afraid of the undercurrents in her life: She may acknowledge John’s kindness, but she is also aware that kindness may not be sufficient to bring passion to a relationship; John may be applauded for his generosity in accepting Stevie as his son, but Christine notes that John also wants extra credit from the friends at the wedding for being so kind.

What makes Christine an attractive character is her self-awareness. She recognizes that the height of summer calls forth her unruly dreams and desires, but she also is aware that desire cannot always be acted on. She accepts, somewhat tepidly, her relationship with John, not because it is her only option, but because marriage and stability will perhaps be the best for her two children. She would prefer that her life did not feel closed down, but she accepts the limitations of her situation and her marriage and goes on. Christine admits that Alexander, their dog, “was more capable of passion than its owners may ever be,” and she struggles with the tension between a desire for comfort and a yearning for passionate fulfillment. The story does not offer any large moral or hidden meaning; it simply examines the multiple levels of human desire.