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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443

The Heart of a Dog was written midway through the most successful period of Bulgakov’s literary life, a few years before he was banned from publication. In the novel, he advances his critique of science gone wrong found in earlier stories such as “The Fatal Eggs” and points to the sweeping, fantastic social critique of his classic novel, The Master and Margarita (1967). In The Heart of a Dog, Bulgakov capitalizes on the contemporary curiosity and speculation surrounding the possibility of organ transplantation to create a cautionary allegory on the dangers of transforming the world, a society, or an individual overnight by revolution.

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The Heart of a Dog is built on a premise similar to that of “The Fatal Eggs.” The experiment of an overreaching scientist goes awry, wreaking havoc on the surrounding populace. Unlike the earlier story, the satire of The Heart of a Dog is not directed solely at the mishaps and pretension of Soviet science. Instead, Preobrazhensky’s inadvertent transformation of Sharik is a means of addressing the larger issues of what it means to be human and to live responsibly in the society of others. The doctor believes that he has scientifically proven the physical location of human nature when the addition of human sex and growth glands transforms the dog Sharik into a man, but the nature of Sharikov’s behavior is clearly outside Preobrazhensky’s scientific empiricism. Sharikov is a man with the heart of a dog as well as a dog with the heart of a man. He is the worst of each, and the doctors scientific knowledge does not equip him to reckon with the consequences. The resulting episodes provide ample opportunity for Bulgakov to...

(The entire section contains 443 words.)

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Critical Context