A Dark Brown Dog

by Stephen Crane

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A Dark Brown Dog Summary

A Dark Brown Dog” is an allegorical 1893 short story by Stephen Crane about a dog who is adopted and mistreated by a young boy’s family.

  • A child meets a small, submissive dark brown dog with a piece of rope tied around its neck and takes it home.
  • The boy and the dog become friends, but the child’s alcoholic father and other family members abuse the dog, which the child sometimes hits as well.
  • One day the child’s father comes home drunk and throws the dog out the window, killing it.


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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 734

A child is standing on a street corner when a small dark brown dog with a short rope around its neck appears. He and the child look at each other, and the child calls out to him. The dog is excited to be petted; he becomes so enthusiastic that he almost knocks the child over. At this, the child hits him on the head.

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The dog is astonished and lies down at the child's feet. He rolls over onto his back and holds out his paws, praying to the child not to hurt him. The child is amused and gives him little taps, but the dog takes these as further admonishment and tries to convey his repentance. He is petitioning the child to love him.

The child, however, becomes bored and sets out for home. The dog stands up and follows him. Periodically, on the way home, the child turns and hits the dog with a small stick, feeling that the dog has no value. The dog tries to apologize for this and begins to look very guilty in his pursuit, but he continues to follow. Occasionally the dog trips on the rope around its neck.

When they reach the child's doorstep, the dog tries again to please the child, gambolling around until the child suddenly sees him as valuable and tries to seize the rope. He drags the dog into the hall and up many stairways through a tenement building. The child is going too fast for the dog, who begins to feel panic. He tries to brace his legs and resist, but he is a very small dog, and the child is able to drag him into his flat.

There is nobody else there. The child tries to pacify the dog, and quickly the pair become friends.

When the child's family arrives home, there is a great argument. The dog is scorned, but the child champions the dog, and when the father of the family comes home from work, he decides—out of some contrariness—that the dog should stay. The child takes the dog off to a corner of the room.

The dog and the child quickly become inseparable. The child protects the dog if the adults kick him; if things are thrown at the dog, the child interposes himself, and the dog becomes good at dodging people when they are trying to hit or kick him. If the child is present, no attempt is made to abuse the dog, the family being aware that it would cause the child to burst into sobs, which they cannot stand, as it is so difficult to quiet him again.

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Unfortunately for the dog, though, the child cannot always be around. When he is asleep, the dog sometimes cries in a corner and is then chased around the kitchen and hit. Sometimes the child, too, hits the dog; the dog always "receive[s] these blows with deep humility" and forgives the child immediately afterward.

The dog is always sympathetic to the child; if the child feels unhappy, he lays his head on the dog's back. No other member of the family becomes close to the dog, and thus they underfeed him and feel exasperated that the dog is frightened of them. By and large, however, the dog prospers, stops howling at night, and develops a powerful bark. He is devoted to the child, wagging his tail when he approaches and despairing when he leaves. He recognizes the child's step among all the sounds of the neighborhood, and the pair walk around the neighborhood together, exploring.

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Latest answer posted December 7, 2019, 2:38 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

One day, however, the father of the family comes home exceptionally drunk. The child notices this as soon as he comes home with the dog. He dives under the table, but the dog misinterprets the movement, thinking the child is playing. The father, spotting the dog, hits him twice with a heavy coffee pot. The dog, giving up hope of escape, rolls over onto his back and prays.

The father decides it would be fun to throw the dog out of the window, so he picks him up and does so, to the astonishment of the neighbors. The dog crashes into a shed five stories below and rolls into an alleyway. The child begins to cry and crawls downstairs to find his friend. When his family finds him later, he is seated next to the body of the dog.

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