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Flush Themes

Heartbreak and Loss

Early in Flush, Flush is separated from his home on a country farm, and he is given to the posh Miss Elizabeth Barrett and must get used to a life indoors. Although it is a disappointing transition, he quickly finds solace with his new owner and grows to see her as family. Unfortunately, the poor dog has his heart broken again soon thereafter, when the convalescing young woman meets the man who would become her husband. Flush is unfortunately shunted to the side, and Miss Barrett pays him much less attention, causing him to feel abandoned, forgotten, and jealous. However, he eventually reconciles with Elizabeth’s husband and feels valued again after the Brownings rescue him from being dognapped. Flush then accompanies the couple when they move to Florence, and he grows to love his independence there.

Poverty and Class Conflict

The segment of the novel when Flush is taken by a group of dognappers and held for ransom provides an opportunity for Woolf to comment on issues of poverty and upper-class ignorance. Though many characters protest paying the ransom to recover the dog, Ms. Browning does so to end her worrying and reclaim the dog safe and sound. Through this experience, she realizes that the people who kidnapped the dog are simply deeply impoverished, and Woolf spends some time decrying the economic disparity in London and England at large which makes this sort of action commonplace.

Rejuvenation Through Relationships

The characters of Miss Barrett and Flush, primarily, experience rejuvenation throughout the story as they grow and find happiness alongside one another. First, Miss Barrett is recuperating from illness when she receives Flush. She spends a great deal of time trying to get herself healthy, and during this time, she bonds with Flush and also finds new life in her relationship with Robert Browning. Later, when the family moves to Italy, Flush is growing older and sicker, but the warmth he finds in family and the beautiful environment of Italy help Flush recover and grow strong once again.