As indicated by the title, ‘‘A Boy and His Dog’’ is about the relationship between the two main charac- ters in the story, a teenager named Vic and his telepathic dog named Blood. Among the many unusual qualities of this story is the role-reversal that characterizes this human-canine relationship. Ellison inverts what the reader understands as the dynamic between a person and a dog, making the human the more impulsive character and the dog the more thoughtful one. The author’s use of inversion in the story reflects the dramatic changes that have taken place on Earth since the War demolished it physically, socially, and culturally. Ellison’s presentation of inversions also suggests that perhaps the present is not as stable as the reader might think. The relationship between Vic and Blood shows how something that is taken for granted in the present— the dynamics between people and their pets—might be inverted in the future.
Because Vic is human, the reader expects him to be levelheaded, dominant, caring, and intelligent. He should be Blood’s guide, providing for his needs and taking charge of navigating them through the human world. Instead, Vic is impulsive, instinctual, uneducated, and weakened by his base drives. Ellison relates Vic’s animal nature on the first page when Vic tells Blood to find him a woman because he needs sex. When Blood teases him, Vic is too blinded by his sexual drive to respond good-naturedly; he is mad at Blood for not immediately responding to his needs. For Vic, sex is not a mutual, loving act; it is rape, and his only concern is fulfilling his need, without regard for the woman he finds.
Vic is also violent, sometimes in reaction to being physically threatened, and sometimes in reaction to having his lifestyle threatened. He, Blood, and Quilla June are threatened by the presence of the roverpak in the YMCA, so Vic reacts by hiding and killing as many of them as he can. This is an example of the basic ‘‘fight or flight’’ instinct, and Vic never chooses flight. In his environment, there is no way to run away from a situation safely, so he has learned to respond to danger with violence. Later, when his carefree, roaming, crude lifestyle is threatened by the leaders of Topeka, he responds like a caged animal. In essence, he wants to return to his native habitat.
Blood, as a dog, could be expected to be an instinct-driven, submissive, and obedient creature who constantly seeks his master’s approval. Instead,...
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