By the time Portis’s third novel, The Dog of the South, was published, his central fictional motif, the quest, was well established. The Dog of the South is slightly longer than his first two novels and is more whimsical even than Norwood. This novel, like True Grit, is a first-person narrative told by the protagonist. As the story begins, Ray Midge, a twenty-six-year-old resident of Little Rock, Arkansas, has just made a startling discovery. His wife, Norma, has run away with her loathsome first husband, Guy Dupree, a would-be radical. Even more distressing is the discovery that the pair has fled in Midge’s new Ford Torino. In its place, they have left Dupree’s compact, a 1963 Buick Special with 74,000 miles on the odometer and slack in the steering wheel.
Like Norwood, Ray Midge is innocent, placid, long-suffering, and optimistic. He holds no grudges and wishes no one ill, but he does want that Ford Torino back. Norma and Dupree have also taken Midge’s American Express and Texaco cards. As the bills start coming in, Midge is able to follow their paper trail. Norwood’s quest for his seventy dollars led him north and east; Midge’s leads south and west. He follows the lovers to Texas, from there into Mexico, and finally to a remote plantation in Honduras. The trip is the best part of the novel, as it allows Midge to meet the sorts of misfits and oddballs about which Portis writes so well.
Dr. Reo Symes travels with Midge. He is a “defrocked” old M.D. from Texas...
(The entire section is 628 words.)