Feed on

Francine Prose’s “Talking Dog” is told from the point of view of a grieving younger sister, who struggles through several traumatic events over the course of a short period of time. Through this, we are able to better understand how grief, love, and regret color the narrator’s perspective and prevent her from truly accepting loss for what it is. Using a retrospective point of view, Prose is easily able to express the narrator’s conflicting emotions as she revisits this time in her life, her sister’s behavior, and her own response to loss and death.

Blinded by her own grief, the narrator is unable to recognize the same in her sister, someone she seems to both resent and look to for guidance. After Jimmy’s apparent death, both sisters grieve, but through the narrator’s perspective her sister comes off as a “fake.” She is unable to acknowledge her sister’s behavior for what it is (coping with loss) and finds her handling it by talking to animals attention seeking behavior. Ultimately, this damages her opinion of her sister and makes it much harder for her to properly understand her own feelings after her sister dies.

I was shocked to be so jealous when death meant it could never be fixed. I didn’t want it to be that way, but that was how it was. (Prose, 512)

As the narrator looks back on her sister’s death, she reveals her jealousy and regrets that she felt it even after her sister was gone—because, to her, this seems to mean that’s how she will always feel. I found this to be an incredibly frustrating point; the narrator is, presumably, older at this point, and should have more sympathy and more understanding of the effect loss can have on a person. Yet her sister’s death only seemed to cement the narrator’s own confusion and frustration. She never acknowledged her own pain properly, making it out to be a competition with her sister. In the end, she still seems to resent her sister for unanswered questions and issues the narrator had that she never bothered to properly discuss with her sister, which fuels the anger she’d rather feel than the sadness her sister accepted in times of loss.

I believe the narrator wasted a lot of time judging her sister’s behavior and choices, as if she would have, or could have, done better and made better choices. After the events of “Talking Dog,” this seems to be her greatest conflict: reconciling her insecurities and frustration in order to mourn, and forgive, her sister.

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