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Memoirs of a Yellow Dog is a short story published in 1906 by American writer O’Henry. The story emphasizes the meaninglessness of life, the emptiness of emotions, and loveless marriages. It focuses on the American middle class, particularly in New York. It is the memoir of a yellow dog. He talks about his owners, a fat lady, and her husband, as he narrates his life events. He observed the fat lady’s careless actions and despised her. He does, however, adore his master. He also attempts to convince him that his life is meaningless. In the end, they both leave the fat lady.
About the Author
William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen name O. Henry was an American writer most known for his short stories, though he also wrote poetry and non-fiction. His writings include the stories Cabbages and Kings, The Gift of the Magi, The Duplicity of Hargraves, and The Ransom of Red Chief. Porter is renowned for his naturalist observations, humorous storytelling, and unexpected conclusions. The O. Henry Award, given annually to the best short stories, is one of Porter’s legacies.
The story begins with a description of a dog. He claims that the only thing he is aware of is the fact that he was born a yellow puppy. He also states that his family history, date, location, and weight are unclear. Then, he remembers his background and describes how an elderly woman carrying him in a basket on Broadway sold him to a fat lady. He says that after then, he was treated like a pet and by the old woman like a child. According to him, she refers to him as “Oh, oo’s um oodlum, doodlum, woodlum, toodlum, bitsy-witsy skoodlums?”
He then describes the flat of his owners as being a typical New York house. Mistress rented it without furniture and then furnished it with common items and antiques from 1903. He then talks about Mistress’s husband and how uncaring she is towards him. He had to do the dishes and listen to her small talk because she made him. He is also responsible for taking me for a walk every evening. He also describes his mistress’s everyday activities. He describes the messiness of the entire house, including the dirty dishes. She does, however, spend her time gossiping, overindulging, and peeping out windows to observe the neighborhood.
He says this is how he lives his life, by observing the fat lady all day and killing her time. Also, by fantasizing about being outside, chasing cars, and barking at old people with other black mittens. He also draws parallels between himself and the woman’s husband. He says that when they walk outdoors, everyone observes how similar they both appear. They wandered and ended up in an impoverished neighborhood. They climb on the heaps of snow from December.
Then, one evening, as they are out promenading, he tells the lady’s husband bitterly about his difficulties. He wonders why he appears so harsh and unhappy if he cannot bear the fat lady’s kisses. He can just sit back and enjoy her musical comedy without having to lap her. He tells him that he should be grateful that he is not a dog.
The lady’s husband then interrupts and questions as to the meaning of the dog’s previous utterance. He adds that the dog appears to have the ability to speak. He receives criticism from the dog for not knowing his language. He further notes that because humans and animals use different comprehension strategies, we are unable to grasp animal language. He begins describing a lady who lives across the street from the fat lady’s flat. That woman’s husband takes her black-and-tan terrier for a walk every evening. He mentions how her husband always appears happy when he gets home. In an attempt to learn more, the yellow pup struck his nose with a black-and-tan terrier in the hall.
The yellow puppy asks the black-and-tan dog what is making his master so happy. He responds that he employs nature’s own remedy for the problem. And he’s reckless, too. He informs him that while attempting to avoid the swinging doors, he lost two inches of his tail. The fat lady tells his husband to get active and take Lovey for a walk one evening at around six o’clock. The yellow pup who serves as the story’s narrator now discloses the name his mistress gave him. Black and tan, on the other hand, is known as Tweetness.
He continues by describing how he and his master were seated at the table. While he waits for the waiter, he moves his tail. He claims that he appreciated the complimentary meal just as much as her mistress does at home. But the master was getting drunk. The dog then persuades him to enter the saloon. The master had then released him and was playing with him. Additionally, while attempting to release him, he pulled off his collar and threw it into the street. The owner advises the dog to go outside because he likes being outside. His mistress is no longer going to adore him. The dog, however, resisted going outside and rolled up between the elderly man’s legs.
Furthermore, the dog inquires as to why he doesn’t leave. Both of them experience abuse from their mistress. She abuses him by making him clean the dishes and the home. On the other side, she annoys the dog by attaching a pink ribbon to his tail. The master now understands how his life is being wasted in a dull flat and a loveless marriage. He decided to leave his wife and move to the “Rocky Mountains” with the dog. He also changed the name of the dog from “Lovey” to “Pete”. He considers Lovey to be a demeaning name, but Pete sounds fine and common. This action by the master made the dog happy.
A yellow dog’s memoir is written in such a way that the reader feels as though they already know the dog. Furthermore, the dog plainly speaks to the reader and even personally addresses the reader in the memoir. The narrator frequently uses humor and sarcasm. As the author mentions, he has no pretense of being of high class. Through the eyes of the yellow dog, we witness the whole of the story. The narrative begins with the dog feeling confined and observing the emptiness in the life of the fat woman.
The fat lady purchased the yellow puppy, who quickly became the target of all her affections. She gave him her own unique, adorable name and gave him face-to-face kisses while talking to him like a baby. He observed himself getting unattractive while living with her in her flat. But she only saw him through rose-colored glasses and continued to think he was beautiful. He expressed his fantasies of becoming a genuine dog since he felt imprisoned in his life with her. He feels as if he is merely sitting in a New York apartment’s corner, not really enjoying his life.
The husband also feels trapped. They both share the same feelings, as demonstrated by the dog’s comment that they both seemed similar. The man obeys everything his wife says. He walks the dog, does the dishes, and listens to her for a very long time. Lovey’s interrogation of the neighboring terrier suggests that he has an unhappy existence. The fact that the terrier’s owner usually wore a smile on his face indicates that Lovey is accustomed to witnessing his owner’s unhappiness.
The dog then decides to move on and starts planning an escape strategy. He discovers that the terrier’s owner becomes more relaxed after drinking, and he makes the decision to try to influence his owner similarly. He persuades his master to enter a bar to drink, and by the end of the evening, his master is pretty drunk. The husband had no qualms about drinking and happily entered the saloon.
This is where we see freedom begin. The happy conclusion that everyone expects comes when the dog’s collar is taken off, and one wants the dog to run. However, because O Henry combines the feelings of both the dog and the husband throughout the story, freedom isn’t satisfying unless both of them are free.
The dog with no collar does not run. As he rushes around his master, the husband quickly understands that he too can have the same freedom. This is the story’s actual climax. The fat lady’s husband abandons the life he hated and embarks on a new journey with his dog. The change of the dog’s name to “Pete” signifies the beginning of its new existence. They put the past behind them and start over.
The fat lady’s life, and hence the lives of her dog and husband, suffer from a lack of real connection. Throughout the day, she wastes her time while still giving Lovey the impression that she cares about him. Real love would require the dog truly feel cherished and free, therefore this is only an appearance. The yellow dog simply wants to be a real dog. In terms of her marriage, there is no sign of affection. He has the same feelings as the dog since he is at her whim. Only the lady is happy in her life; the marriage is a disaster. However, towards the conclusion of the narrative, her happiness is traded for her husband’s and dog’s freedom.