Wildness and colonialism in “The Story of Two Dogs” by Doris Lessing
Dogs play an important role in colonial society, especially in Africa. While the project of colonisation involves settling in a new country and confronting wild animals, the dog is one animal on which the settler can rely as an ally, protector and companion. Settler dogs whose breeds stem from Britain are in a sense the animal counterpart of the human settler. When these animals desert their owners either by cross-breeding with indigenous dogs or reverting to the wild, it can seem like a betrayal of their settler owners and of the colonial project. Doris Lessing explores this dilemma in “The Story of Two Dogs” which is a semi-autobiographical story of her family and their dogs. She grew up in the 1930s on a farm in colonial Rhodesia. Lessing creates an ironical narrative voice that undermines colonial discourse and exposes racial and class prejudice among the settler community. Through the lens of the dogs she also draws attention to gender conflict and the subjugation of women in matters of dog training and hunting. In addition, conflict between adults and children is brought out which points to possibilities of a more open approach to the question of dog breeding, training and ownership. She also raises questions about the ultimate nature of the dog and its status as a domesticated animal.
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