All entries for Wednesday 24 October 2007

October 24, 2007

Close Reading

“(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?”: A Close Reading

On the surface it is a text of childish inquisitiveness and wistfulness. But while the youthful yearning for a pet expresses imagined play and enjoyment, the financial concern of the speaker signals the earliest awareness of his/her economic limitations. Hence, the opening question reveals a glimpse of a paradise that will be lost, the end of youth; it anticipates the death of innocence, and darker concerns that pervade the work.

Initially the window serves as a metaphor for varying modes of separating child from dog; physical space, parental consent and/or the need for agreement on terms of sale are barriers between the two. Moreover, the window unsettles with its implication of incarceration; a shop display is an inadequate living-space for a dog, it forbids exercise and restricts the animal to the sole activity of demonstrating its eligibility for purchase.

The use of the word ‘doggie’ for dog recasts the narrator’s desire as sexual: the term ‘doggie’ evokes a bestial act of coitus; the ‘waggledy’ gesture becomes seductive. Hence, the window is a site of voyeurism, the ‘pet store’ a locale of enforced prostitution, the barrier signifying a point of transition from quotidian to unlawful activity. Play, now understood to be sexual, bears the threat of veneral disease. The narrator’s conclusive repetition of his wish – ‘I do hope that doggie’s for sale’ underscores the use of childish, ‘flash’ language as a cry for death, voyeurism, harlotry.

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