Dog Days and Other Texts
As I read Dog Days, I can’t help but think how Massa Yo’s ownership over Mboudjak mirrors a lot of the dominant, and even paternalistic relationships depicted in our past readings. Initially, Dog Days had me reflect upon the relationship of Joseph and Isaac in All Our Names. I saw that Massa Yo’s pampering of his pet resembled the coddling given to Isaac by Joseph.
In Dog Days, our narrator is a dog who lives a poor life, but is given an opportunity at a new one. Nganang sets us up for this change early on in the first few lines of his novel: “I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve assumed the destiny it places on my shoulders…I’ve gotten used to the arrogance of others…It hasn’t always been this way. At first I was wounded by even the most innocuous human words” (Nganang 1). At first, Mboudjak is a rebellious dog, biting and barking at his owner, going against the grain. However, once he realizes the good that can come from being an obedient pet, he quickly changes his attitude. In my mind, this resembles how in All Our Names, Isaac is originally against the ignorance and arrogance of his Ethiopian government and it’s wealthy citizens. But soon after Isaac is taken in by Joseph, we see that Isaac becomes spoiled and is willing to do anything Joseph tells him to. This shapes Isaac into a completely different person. The one who notices this change is Dinaw Mengestu’s unnamed narrator, who realizes that Isaac has completely turned. The same could be said for Dog Days, when Mboudjak leaves Massa Yo’s ownership and lives amongst the stray dogs. When Mboudjak is with these stray dogs, he is constantly criticized and teased for being a spoiled dog. They see him as an outsider. Moreover, this dichotomy between the groups of dogs also reminded me of the effect of change from traditional living to an unorthodox way of life, as depicted in both Nervous Conditions and Things Fall Apart.
In both of these prior readings our main characters are given the chance to explore a new culture and be exposed to a different lifestyle. In Nervous Conditions, Tambu is taken to a missionary school. There, she sees a change in resentment for ones culture from her sibling and cousins, but also begins to see it in herself. Both Tambu’s cousins and brother look down upon their culture and heritage once they are exposed to a new lifestyle. This shift in perspective is also depicted in Things Fall Apart.
In the novel, Okonkwo has a very difficult time adjusting and accepting this change brought to him by European missionaries, while his son, Nwoye is very accepting of this new way of life. This leads Nwoye to resents his father and his way of living. Both Nervous Conditions and Things Fall Apart kept popping into my head as I saw this chain effect unravel in Dog Days, where Massa Yo looks down upon a domesticated Mboudjak, leading Mboudjak to look down upon these stray dogs, and finally having the stray dogs lose respect for Mboudjak. In the end, this leads me to believe that one reason why Patrice Nganang’s chooses to make a dog the narrator, is to show this power struggle in Cameroon. As the novel progresses, I see a constant need from the characters to be above and not sink into poverty. There is a constant need to be above someone or something else.