For the Love of Dogs

When nothing happens, the usual course of action is to say nothing. If Betteredge had skipped from Thursday to Saturday in his final reflections on the first period, I would not have stopped to ponder Friday’s events, or lack thereof, I would have simply continued on, eagerly following the mystery’s ongoing development. However, Betteredge interrupts the progress of his narrative in order to comment on a day on which “nothing happened” (195). He urges the reader to “Excuse [his] mentioning this” and to “Pass it over please”, which of course makes me read even closer (195).

Perhaps this is a trivial anecdote, but as the narrator of the first period, Betteredge has the power to decide what makes it into his story and what gets left out. Including this passage involved a conscientious choice, and I believe it serves a purpose for both Betteredge and our author, Wilkie Collins. Firstly this passage follows the admission that Miss Clack will narrate the second period, as well as Betteredge’s request of the reader to ignore anything that she may say about his character. Although Betteredge’s professed goal throughout his narration was objective reporting, and although he reiterates this as he concludes, there is a force looming on the horizon that will most likely call his objectivity into question. Consequently, the reader can identify a motive belonging to Betteredge: the protection of his reputation and the assurance of his legitimacy.

With these insights, I believe recounting Friday’s events is an attempt by Betteredge to ‘butter up’ the reader. He uses self-effacement to elevate the reader above himself, saying, “I am fast coming to the end of my offences against your cultivated modern taste” (195). After rational contemplation, it is quite clear that there is nothing offensive about a man’s care for dogs. In fact, his consideration for man’s best friend reveals his compassion and nurturing abilities. There is not much argument against a man who cared fro a “good creature” in need (195). It seems as if Betteredge has included this story in order to convince the audience of his righteous and pure nature, and its humble close, “he did indeed” certainly evokes feelings of warmth and goodwill towards the man who seems to simply do his duty. However, I find it unsettling that Betteredge has to convince the audience of anything at all. An innocent and honest man, who was truly objective, would not have to employ such tactics. Also, there is one glaring gap in Betteredge’s story. He cites the dog’s ailment as a break out behind the ears. In order to treat this rash of sorts, he gives the dog buckthorn, a commonly used laxative, in combination with other dietary restrictions. There is nothing wrong with this dog’s digestive system, so why is Betteredge trying to treat the dog’s stomach? Could it be that he made the entire story up?

This passage seems to implicate Betteredge in ways that he might not have intended- perhaps it’s nothing, but as Betteredge has shown us in this very passage, nothing is ever nothing. I think I have detective fever too!

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