Study Guide

Victrola

by Wright Morris

Victrola Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bundy is an elderly man who lives alone with his dog. He has had the dog since the death of its previous owner, Miss Tyler, who lived above Bundy. The overweight, asthmatic dog was already old at the time of Miss Tyler’s death, several years before. When he lived with Miss Tyler, the dog always snarled when he met Bundy and barked wildly when he opened his mailbox. Bundy had taken the dog in even though he has never liked large dogs with short pelts and “had once been a cat man.” Bundy does admire the dog’s “one redeeming feature”: He sits whenever he hears the word “sit.”

Bundy and the dog have gotten along since the time they went to the park and the dog began furiously digging a large hole, only to have Bundy give him a sharp crack with the end of the leash. The dog turned on him with a look of hatred, but Bundy had “just enough presence of mind to stand there, unmoving, until they both grew calm.” After this incident, they reached what Bundy considers a permanent truce.

The focus of the story is a shopping trip taken by the two of them. They go to a drugstore for Bundy’s medicine and a vitamin supplement for the dog’s itching. Passing an antique warehouse, Bundy realizes “that he no longer wanted other people’s junk. Better yet (or was it worse?), he no longer wanted—with the possible exception of an English mint, difficult to find.” At the supermarket, Bundy ties the dog to a bicycle rack and goes in to do his shopping.

A few minutes later, he is called to the front of the store, where the dog is lying on its side “as if sleeping.” A clerk explains that some other dogs rushed it and apparently frightened it to death. When a woman asks the dog’s name, Bundy says that it is Victor “since he could not bring himself to admit the dog’s name was Victrola.” Miss Tyler believed that the dog looked like the RCA symbol: “The resemblance was feeble, at best. How could a person give a dog such a name?”