“A Dark Brown Dog” Summary by Stephen Crane: Synopsis

“A Dark Brown Dog” is a short story by Stephen Crane published in 1901. In addition to being a simple story of a boy who takes in a stray dog, it’s also an allegory for the Jim Crow South. Here’s a summary of “A Dark Brown Dog”.

“A Dark Brown Dog” Summary

On a sunny day, a boy leans against a fence while some trucks drive down the avenue. A little dark-brown dog comes walking down the sidewalk with a short rope around his neck. The boy calls the dog over. It obeys and they pat each other. In its excitement, the dog almost knocks the boy over. He hits the dog on the head.

The dog gets timid and shrinks at the boy’s feet. The boy rebukes the dog and hits it again. The dog turns on his back, holds his paws up in an unusual way and looks apologetic, almost like its praying. The boy finds it amusing and gives the dog little taps. The dog continues to look wounded, contrite and sad.

The boy gets tired of the dog and starts walking for home. The dog follows. Noticing the dog, the boy beats him with a stick he finds. This happens several more times. Each time the dog looks apologetic and continues to follow.

They reach the boy’s doorstep and sit down. The dog moves playfully. Suddenly wanting the dog, the boy grabs the rope and pulls it into the hallway and up the tenement stairs. The dog is afraid and resists. The boy pulls harder and gets him to his door. Inside, no one is home. They sit on the floor and quickly bond.

"A Dark Brown Dog" summary stephen crane synopsis
“A Dark Brown Dog” Summary

When the family members see the dog, they call it names and find it unimpressive. The boy defends the dog. His father comes home to the argument. They have a family meeting about it. The father, being in a bad mood, decides to let the dog stay, knowing it will bother everyone.

The boy and the dog spend all their waking time together. He becomes its friend and protector, protesting loudly when someone hits it. His father accidentally hits him with a pot instead of the dog, which makes everyone more careful. The dog becomes an expert at avoiding things thrown and evading blows. The dog wails at night which gets it chased and hit.

The boy sometimes beats the dog as well. It always looks guilty and humble and forgives the boy immediately. When troubled, the boy seeks comfort from the dog, which it gives without holding a grudge.

No one else in the family likes the dog. They try to underfeed it, and it stays away from them. The boy sees it gets enough to eat. The dog does well, developing a good bark and keeping quieter at night. The dog grows completely devoted to the boy, never remembering the boy’s flaws, but only loving him.

The dog goes with the boy on his neighborhood expeditions. He’s proud to accompany the boy.

One day when they come home, the father is drunk and behaving roughly. The boy dives under the kitchen table. As the dog trots across the floor to join him, the father knocks him over with the coffee pot. Afraid, the dog stands and starts to run but the father kicks him and hits him again with the pot.

The boy tries to help but is ignored. The dog rolls on his back and looks like he’s praying again. The father picks the dog up by a leg, swings it over his head, and hurls it through an open window.

Some neighbors are startled by the soaring dog, which hits the roof of a shed five stories below, then falls into the alleyway. The boy wails and toddles out of the apartment into the hallway. He has to go down the stairs slowly backwards due to his small size.

When his family goes to get him later, they find him sitting by the body of his dark-brown friend.

I hope this summary of a “A Dark-Brown Dog” by Stephen Crane was helpful.