Flush is a very unique novel in both its writing style and thematic influence. Written partially from the perspective of a dog, one might assume it would take on the same vein as many pieces of children’s literature, but it is actually used as a typical piece of Romantic literature to explore relationships and economic struggles.
The writing style of the work resembles that of a bildungsroman for the titular dog, Flush, as the puppy grows up throughout the story and learns valuable lessons—maturing and connecting with various characters along the way. It is reminiscent of Dickensian stories about children maturing and becoming adults, but at the same time, it is ancillary to a greater story—the story of Browning and her family. Flush, as the main character, is on the outside looking in on the relationships and lives of Ms. Browning and her family—including her courtship and eventual marriage.
Late in the novel, the perspective shifts to discuss the plot from Elizabeth’s point of view. In doing so, it creates a parallel narrative from their different perspectives and shows how they are similar in their feelings and experiences. The two are parallel in many ways: as both characters undergo a growth and rejuvenation process, both experience alienation (in Flush’s capture and kidnapping and Elizabeth's ill health) until they both find new families. Flush is separated from his parents at birth but becomes a part of Browning’s family, and Browning gets married, creating a whole new family from her original one.
Finally, the novel is unique in that it explores deep and realistic themes of economic disparity and broken relationships in spite of the imaginative narration. The book follows a dog primarily, and yet it is able to make a commentary on the overwhelming poverty in London. This is a unique strength of Woolf’s—she is able to relate such disparate concepts to create both a heartwarming tale and also a social commentary while discussing the life of a dog.
Form and Content
As a fictionalized life story of a cocker spaniel, Flush: A Biography offers the reader a view of the courtship and marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning from an unusual perspective. Although Virginia Woolf uses the third-person narrator throughout the book, the events of the story are revealed through a dog’s sensory perceptions. The six chapters of the book correspond to six stages in the life of Flush, beginning with what is known of his early years and ending with his death as an old dog.
In the first chapter, Woolf explores the possible origins of the spaniel as a breed, along with Flush’s early life in Reading, England, as a puppy raised by Mary Russell Mitford. Flush’s real life, however, begins at the end of this chapter when he is given by Mitford to her dear friend, Elizabeth Barrett. From that point on, the life of Flush becomes inextricably connected to the lives of the Brownings, particularly the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning because Flush was the pampered pet of the poet before the arrival of Robert Browning. Through Flush, the reader senses the boredom of Barrett’s...
(The entire section is 801 words.)