Last Updated on March 15, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 687
In “Lob’s Girl,” Joan Aiken subtly considers the ways in which nature influences human life. Early in the story, nature is seen as a uniting force. Lob and Sandy meet on a warm summer day, the season symbolizing a time full of life and promise. The children relax together on the beach, the natural environment providing a space for enjoyment. Even the young twins aren’t as troublesome as is typical, choosing to wrap themselves in nature using the seaweed which has washed up on the beach.
It is during this season full of promise that Lob finds Sandy, accidentally covering her in sand because of his enthusiasm. Their first moments together are spent outdoors, using a piece of nature—specifically a piece of driftwood—for a game of fetch. As Lob continues to retrieve this wood for Sandy, it soon becomes clear that he is, in essence, hers. The driftwood provides the means for this connection, uniting the pair as they take turns exchanging possession of it.
After Lob is taken away by his owner, nature is seen as a boundary separating the two friends. Lob’s devotion is so complete that he traverses four hundred miles of natural terrain in order to return to Sandy’s side. After this journey, he is worn and dusty, his body showing evidence of the ways nature has impacted him along his route. Nevertheless, Lob perseveres, determined to overcome vast expanses of nature because of his devotion. Despite his immense efforts, Lob is taken away from Sandy again; the natural boundary again exists to divide them.
Undeterred, Lob again traverses four hundred miles to return to Sandy. This time, nature attacks his body with a greater force. When Lob reaches the Pengelly house the second time, he is limping. His ear is torn, and he is missing a patch of hair. On this journey, it seems as though some wild animal has attacked Lob in his journey. Nevertheless, Lob’s tenacity has kept him moving forward, and he again reaches the girl to whom he is so devoted.
The night of the accident is not set in summer, the season of promise, but in autumn, a season which often symbolizes the onset of decay and death. A storm intensifies, further establishing a mood of tension and conflict. The sounds of this storm are so troubling that Mrs. Pengelly attempts to drown them out with music, attempting to replace the natural world with the artifice of mankind.
After the accident, Don decides to bury Lob at sea, a fitting tribute, given that Sandy and Lob met on the beach and shared many days together in this natural setting. This burial place is also significant because it conveys a sense of honor; burials at sea are often given to sailors and soldiers. Lob has proven his loyalty to Sandy, repeatedly overcoming natural boundaries to demonstrate his steadfast sense of duty to her.
Yet even with concrete tied to his collar, Lob somehow finds a way to overcome the laws of the natural world and return to Sandy when she needs him. As she hovers near death, a soaking wet Lob arrives at Sandy’s side, and it is Lob’s whining that stirs something in Sandy’s consciousness. In this moment, it seems that the knowledge of the medical world cannot improve Sandy’s condition, yet the simple comforts of a faithful and loving dog rouse Sandy from her deep coma.
With his mission fulfilled, Lob disappears, leaving only watery paw prints as evidence that he has visited Sandy. His appearance at the hospital signifies that once again, his devotion overcomes the boundaries of the natural world. The Pengelly family recognizes these efforts in their final tribute to Lob. Although he is buried at sea, they place a memorial stone underneath a palm tree in their garden. Palms are often recognized as symbolizing victory and triumph, and the placement of the stone under this particular tree is a testament to Lob’s triumph over the laws of the natural world and his victorious efforts in saving their daughter’s life.