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Why “A Dog’s Purpose” is the Next Great American Novel

In my Seminar in American Literature class, we are learning about the Lost Generation. These are writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. They all hung out in Paris in the 1920’s and basically created American Literature. Known as the Modernism movement, the works that resulted from this literary concoction in Paris in the 1920’s aimed to revolt against the stuffy-uptight, pedantic Victorian-era literature. This was the prose, poetry, and drama that followed a strict set of rules: Poetry had to have rhythm, rhyme, and meter. Prose had to be overly descriptive of characters and setting. Metaphors and symbols a-plenty. In the words of Ezra Pound, the American Modernists wanted to “make it new.” 

Fast forward to the 21st century. We are now in the Post-Post Modernism world, where students like me are taught that Hemingway’s to-the-point writing should be admired, and that “making it new” should be a writer’s one and only goal. I can think of no better example in contemporary literature that embodies Ezra Pound’s advice better than W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose

First and foremost, the most “new” and unique aspect of this novel: it is told from the dog’s perspective. Ezra Pound would be shaking in his boots! A novel narrated by a dog? No one has ever done that before! 

As you may have noticed from recent movie trailers, A Dog’s Purpose follows one dog’s story of reincarnation. But as an avid dog-lover and huge fan of this book, I beg of you, please do not just see the movie. Read. The. Book. The book follows a stray-turned-shelter dog named Toby, a puppy-mill escapee who becomes Bailey, a police dog named Ella, and so on. As someone who cannot watch 101 Dalmatians because the dogs are threatened, I thought I would sob through this entire book and movie, but instead I cried from laughter. Cameron absolutely perfects a dog’s inner monologue. When Bailey is left alone in the garage, he eats his mom’s shoes in an attempt to get someone to let him out. When his companion Smokey the Cat dies and the family buries him in the backyard, Bailey digs him up because “they couldn’t have meant to bury a perfectly good dead cat.” 

A Dog’s Purpose “makes it new” in every sense of the phrase, and would make the Modernists proud. In an era of sappy romances, vampires and werewolves around every turn, and the tired atmosphere of dystopian society, A Dog’s Purpose revolts against the norm to create a beloved story that should be considered a classic for all to enjoy. 

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