The Heart of a Dog

by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 372

Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov is a satirical novel that pokes fun at the Russian people and their belief that communism would solve society's problems. Therefore, it's no wonder why the main character of the novel is a mangy mutt who is transformed into a dog-man hybrid by a stuck up scientist who thinks he possesses the know-how to create a superior race.

The story is first told from the point of view of a street dog named Sharik, which is a common name for a dog that means "little ball" in Russian. Sharik has had a hard life but thinks his luck has changed when he is adopted by a gentlemanly doctor by the name of Filip Filippovich Preobrazhensky, whose name is derived from the word for "transformation." This name is fitting since Filipovich is really a scientist who implants poor Sharik with the testicles and pituitary glands of a thief who was killed in a bar brawl with the hopes of creating a superior species of a man. (Does this seem like a good idea to you?)

Instead, Filipovich accidentally creates a vulgar, horny "man with the heart of a dog" who speaks in Russian swear words, steals, smokes, and tries to hump the female servants of the household. In spite of his vices, Sharik is given the silly name "Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov" and a government position working for the Moscow Cleansing Department which enables him to spend his time chasing cats and causing other mayhem. In this way, Sharik represents the poor, working class, or proletariat, as it rose to power under the communist state.

On the contrary, Filipovich is thought to represent the author, Bulkagov, himself who was known to be an open skeptic of communism and its claim to make a new, improved Russia. He is also thought to be modeled after the real-life, western scientist, Serge Voronoff, whom many people foolishly believed could inject people with monkey glands to restore their vitality.

Now, reader, it's your turn to analyze the author's purpose for choosing these characters. Why do you think he chose a dog to represent the working class? Compare these characters and their actions to the characters in other stories you have read.

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