The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Mikhail Bulgakov completed his satiric novel The Heart of a Dog in 1925, but Soviet government censorship kept it from being published until after his death. The story opens from the canine point of view of a stray mongrel named Sharik that wanders the cold streets of Moscow in search of food and a warm place to sleep. The dog is puzzled by the harsh treatment he receives at the hands of the various shopkeepers from whom he begs scraps. He accepts the cruelty as a matter of course and is, therefore, puzzled when a well-dressed stranger offers him sausages and takes him home to a luxurious apartment.

The stranger is Philip Philippovich Preobrazhensky, a noted surgeon experimenting in organ transplants and sexual rejuvenation operations. Preobrazhensky treats the dog well. When a neighborhood petty criminal dies, the doctor has the opportunity to continue his experimentation. He promptly transplants the testes and pituitary gland of the deceased man into Sharik. The doctor does not make the purpose of the operation clear even to his assistant, Bormenthal. The results stun everyone involved. As Bormenthals log of the experiment records, Sharik’s recovery is the evolution of a dog into a man. Surprisingly, he immediately is able to walk upright and speak, cursing and demanding liquor.

The short, hairy man promptly changes his name from Sharik to the more human Sharikov and adds Polygraph Polygraphovich, a first name and patronymic he...

(The entire section is 484 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Goscilo, Helena. “Point of View in Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog,” in Russian Literature Triquarterly. XV (1976), pp. 281-291.

Proffer, Ellendea. Mikhail Bulgakov: Life and Work, 1984.

Rydel, Christine. “Bulgakov and H.G. Wells,” in Russian Literature Triquarterly. XV (1976), pp. 293-311.

Wright, A. Colin. Mikhail Bulgakov: Life and Interpretations, 1978.