Who is the speaker of the poem When Great Dogs Fight by Melvin B. Tolson? And what are four literary devices found in the poem?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are various types of narrators and the tone or essence of a story or poem alters depending on the voice and the style of the writing. The narrator tells the story and reveals the details and it is the narrator's opinion that will affect the outcomes as his or her perspective is shared. In Tolson's When Great Dogs Fight, the reader is drawn into the poem and becomes involved in the story through a third person omniscient narrator being one who knows the whole story and shares it according to his interpretation of events.

The reader is aware that the narrator is observing the behavior of the dogs and chooses to reveal a life lesson using this example so that others can understand his message. The subtlety of the poem reinforces the need for restrained but definite action depending on the opportunities that life may present. Tolson uses literary devices to strengthen the visual image from which readers can recognize their own position and, if the reader sees himself as the "mongrel," he needs to be aware that he can benefit from the weaknesses of others. Those "dwarfing pedigrees" also need to learn that their lack of awareness and obtuse behavior may result in missed opportunities.

Tolson uses personification extensively starting with the fact that he refers to the dog throughout as "he." Personification is also seen in the dog's "timid little claws." Tolson wants to ensure that the reader relates to the situation. There is also metaphor in "a dead-end world" suggesting that in his neighborhood there is no hope. His neighborhood is a dead-end. Allusion is used in "A sphinx haunts every age" as the sphinx is a mythical creature but the reader understands that Tolson is alluding to how success and failure depends on whether (in this instance) the dog can solve the riddle and survive by the means at his disposal.     

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker of the poem "When Great Dogs Fight" by Melvin B. Tolson is a third person narrator (a third person point of view - POV) who observes the action taking place and gives his thoughts on what the mindset of this dog (mongrel) is as the dog lives its life in the shadow of more powerful dogs.

One literary device found in this poem is the use of "End Rhyme":

     He came from a dead-end world of under breed,

     A mongrel in his look and in his deed.

Another literary device used in this poem is "Alliteration", as in this line with two consecutive words starting with the letter "p"...

     When dwarfing pedigrees paraded by.

A third literary device used in this poem is the use of "Internal Rhyme", within words and within the same line:

     The izzard cur, accurst of dogs and men,


A fourth literary device that the poet uses is "Imagery", which enables the reader to take in more fully and with more comprehension the scene being described...

   Singeing the hedges with his buttercup hue.

The reader, with this imagery, can see in their mind's eye the mongrel running up the street.

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