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New User
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎07-13-2008
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Significance of the only first-person paragraph: The other little boy and the dog

This book is written entirely in the third person except for one first-person paragraph at the top of page 74. Before quoting it, I'll describe what happens in the narrative just prior to it.

After his father shoots the "bad guy" from the truck and they're on the run, the boy tells his father that he thinks he hears a dog barking in the distance. He makes his father promise that they won't hurt the dog. Shortly after that, the boy is sitting on the front steps of a house while his father is inside gathering anything usable. He sees a boy his own age at the rear of the house across the street. He runs up the drive of the house and into the overgrown back yard calling, "Come back. I won't hurt you." His frantic father finds him and tells him that there is no boy there, but his son insists. "I'm afraid for that little boy... We should go get him, Papa. We could take him and we could take the dog." He is inconsolable. The two set up camp and sleep, then the narrative abruptly switches to a brief first-person account:
"The dog that he remembers followed us for two days. I tried to coax it to come but it would not. I made a noose of wire to catch it. There were three cartridges in the pistol. None to spare. She walked away down the road. The boy looked after her and then he looked at me and then he looked at the dog and he began to cry and to beg for the dog's life and I promised I would not hurt the dog. A trellis of a dog with the hide stretched over it. The next day it was gone. That is the dog he remembers. He doesn't remember any little boys."
Earlier in the book we read that the wife committed suicide with a sharp piece of obsidian. She said, "I should have done it a long time ago. When there were three bullets in the gun instead of two."

I'd like to know if that first-person passage was deliberate or if it was an editing oversight. Is the change in POV a hint of something significant? If so, what is the underlying message?
  1. Instead of hearing an actual dog and seeing an actual boy, is the son having a memory flashback of a dog and little boy he saw in the past?

  2. Or is the whole episode a suppressed memory of the father's that was re-awakened during a stressful night? Note that there were three bullets in the gun and now there are two. Is the father disturbed that, a while back when the mother was still living, he did lie to the boy and he did kill a dog so they could eat it?

  3. What about the other little boy that the son is sure he saw? Is McCarthy suggesting something even more unsettling -- that, unknown to the son, the parents brought the same fate to another little boy that they brought to the dog?
What do you make of this?
New User
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎04-19-2009
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Re: Significance of the only first-person paragraph: The other little boy and the dog

I feel that the boy looks at the other little boy as himself - especially at the end.  He keeps bringing up the other little boy and talking about him.  Almost assuring himself that he (the boy) will be okay.  The end of the book where the father is talking to him and the last lines that the father says about Goodness finding the other boy - that it always has.  They both see that the boy is seeing himself in that other little boy and the father is reassuring him as he has done a million times that he will be okay.


As for the dog(s) - I am not sure what to make of it - did the father kill the first dog - I can't tell but it is never mentioned about what happened to that third bullet - did the father kill the dog and feed it to the family - just kill the dog because it was thin and obviously suffering as the rest of them were and everyone was - lack of food, strength, etc.


I had to come find a discussion board about this book because I was so moved by it - so I will be perusing all these subjects!

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