Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Dog Days” revolves around two major themes: isolation and alienation. The family on which the story centers is isolated from its neighbors and, apparently, from the government under which it lives. Over a twelve-month period, the society in which the family lives and of which it has presumably been a part is collapsing, yet the family seems oblivious to the implications of each change that takes place in the lives of its members. Judy Budnitz presents a chilling view of what happens when people are apathetic about what is going on around them.

The family in this story is a compact unit. The only outsider, aside from the man/dog that attaches itself to the family, is Lisa’s friend, Marjorie, who lives two and a half blocks away. Marjorie never appears directly in the story. Lisa reveals that she has left with her family in June, just before the roads were closed. The closing of the roads becomes the final, crucial step in isolating Lisa’s family. Budnitz never names Lisa’s family, thereby intensifying the illusion of anonymity, isolation, and alienation that characterizes it.

The members of this family are faceless characters. They are stereotypes. They have no real identities as Budnitz presents them. One has the feeling that if they were cut, they would not bleed. The mother and father do not communicate. Rather, the mother deceives the father in what seems like a classic example of marital compromise. They keep the peace, but they...

(The entire section is 420 words.)