Are We Civilized?

When I was reading the novel Dog Days, I strongly feel that the author is trying to tell us something in addition to the violence of everyday life. As we have discussed in class, Patrice Nganang uses a dog as a narrator on purpose because the dog can see the human society more clearly as an outsider. The protagonist of the novel (Mboudjak) mocks at the people around him, but at the same time, he does not have the power to change all these things.

The scene that impresses me the most is the start of chapter 2. Mboudjak has “turned into a poodle” (67), but he thinks that he is “ridiculous […] comical and ugly” (69). This also echoes the theme brought up in the first page of the novel—the right/power to name things. People have the right to name things (as in section 1, chapter 1, we can see Mboudjak used to have the struggle of being called a dog). In the salon scene, we can see that people also have the right to define what “beauty” is. To human beings (at least in the novel), they put perfume on the dog and make the fur wavy, which are against the dogs’ nature. No wonder Mboudjak thinks he is ugly. But no matter how disappointed he is or how hard he “barked out [his] suffering” (68), to people he is just a barking dog. His opinion will never become real opinions simply because he does not have the right to make decisions. What’s worse, he is totally powerless in term of linguistic manipulation.

The most ironic figure in this scene is the lady who reads the magazine upside down. According to Mboudjak, “she is a racist” (68) and is unfriendly. She thinks that sitting in a salon will make her pretty and thus “civilized,” but in fact she is not. The fact that she is reading the magazine upside down clearly insinuates that the lady is just pretending to look fashionable or mimicking what other people may do in a salon. To Mboudjak, this is a failure. But unfortunately, what he can do is to bark out his mockery because he does not have the control over language.

So, are we civilized? Maybe from a dog’s perspective, human beings are just stupid animals that stand with two feet, and do weird things all the time.

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Posted on October 31, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think you bring up an excellent point. I wonder when reading the book how Mboudjak would respond when viewing our current society. Would his thoughts differ at all? To be honest I think he would think we are less civilized now then we were back then. I imagine he would critique our obsession with technology and our inability to really socialize outside our phones.

  1. Pingback: Digital Participation–“Are We Civilized?” | The African Writer

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