And when the club or whip fell upon them, the spark fluttered feebly up, and the tottered to their feet and staggered on, why is this an apt image?
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I think the "apt" image is one of slavery. Charlie and Hal are working their dogs with no regard for their well-being. The dogs get nothing in return for their work. Note the words "whip", "club" and "feebly". All have to do with violence and subservience.