PJAS 11 Spring-10

Małgorzata Rutkowska
Dangerous Pets, Misguided Owners: The Pitfalls of Pet-Keeping in T.C. Boyle’s Stories
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 11 (Spring 2017), pp. 133-146

Abstract: The present article is an attempt to look at the human-animal relationship in selected stories from T. Coraghessan Boyle’s two collections: Tooth and Claw (2006) and Wild Child (2010). In “Thirteen Hundred Rats,” “Tooth and Claw” and “Admiral” Boyle ponders on human motivations behind such controversial contemporary practices as keeping exotic pets, hoarding animals and cloning dogs. The stories focus on the dark side of pet-keeping, rarely touched upon in literary representations of this widespread social practice. Boyle seems to doubt the sincerity of human devotion to animal companions, presenting characters who acquire unusual or exotic pets for purely utilitarian or egotistical reasons. In Boyle’s stories human dominance over life and death of pets symbolizes human power over nature. Yet these fantasies of power prove illusionary when exotic or unusual pets (python, serval, rats) transform civilized domestic space of the characters’ homes into the uncivilized “jungle.” In a sense, abused animals take symbolic revenge on their irresponsible caretakers. Dog-cloning, in turn, is presented as a misguided attempt to combat death, a means to provide immortality for a dog, which is treated both as a surrogate child and a status symbol by his millionaire owners.

Keywords: T.C. Boyle, short story, pet-keeping in literature, exotic pets, animal hoarding, dog cloning, human-animal relationship

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.11/1/2017.10

Full article