Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Toronto, Modern Day

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is a third-person omniscient narrator who is not identified, but they provide us with insight into the inner thoughts and beliefs of almost every character in the novel, including the gods. Our point of view in the novel, accordingly, shifts between the actions of different dogs and defies standard chronology, sometimes going backwards in time to show a new angle of an event that was already relayed.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the novel is rather rather serious and thoughtful, taking care to remain as objective as possible while still relaying a clear moral. This is in line with the novel's situation as an apologue. It is by no means whimsical or moralizing, however, though it is humorous in certain places.

Protagonist and Antagonist

No clear protagonist or antagonist

Major Conflict

The major conflict of the novel can be understood primarily in terms of the wager made between the brother gods Apollo and Hermes. Contained in their bet concerning the nature of human intelligence, there are many layers—what happens between Majnoun and Atticus, what happens over time to Benjy, the relationship between Majnoun and Nira, and the efforts of Prince to preserve his poetry throughout the ages. Each aspect itself reveals a different component of human nature when contextualized within the central wager, but it is the bet itself that drives the action of the novel and gives rise to every element in the series of smaller conflicts and events.


Since each dog has their own storyline, complete with conclusion and climax, it is perhaps improper to say that the entire novel has a single climax. If one thinks of the central wager as the conflict that defines the whole novel however, the most appropriate climax can be found at the novel's end, when Prince is revealed to be the dog that costs Apollo the bet. His own discovery of immortal poetry and the pleasure he takes from imagining his own words in the mouth of another shatter the bet and bring us to the moment we have been waiting for the entire novel.


On page 20 of the novel, the clearest example of foreshadow in the novel appears. As each dog crosses the street on the way to the lake from the clinic, they cross in groups. With only a few exceptions, the dogs that cross with Majnoun are the dogs who will later be attacked or ousted by the conspirators, while the dogs that cross with Atticus will later be sympathetic towards his cause. The body language here cues us to think that maybe their minds were made up from the beginning on the topic of allegiance.


Because the dogs in the novel are mostly clear and straightforward in their communication, and because the novel primarily endeavors to show us how these dogs think and act, there is not much understatement used in the novel.


The primary allusions made in the text are to well-known works of art and world literature that Nira reads with Majnoun. These allusions serve to provide us with clues about how dogs think differently from humans when considering the same objects. For example, when Majnoun watches "Tokyo Story" with Nira, he thinks about how height is correlated with order, rather than anything else in the film like its pace.


Much like with understatement, the novel endeavors to use imagery in line with how dogs might perceive the world around them. This means that most of the imagery in the novel is rendered through scents—such as the scent of the lake and the scent of the gardens of death.


Perhaps the central paradox of the novel is what the intelligent dogs truly and essentially are. They are dogs, but they are not. They are also beings of human intelligence, but they are not human. The attempt to resolve this paradox plays out over the course of the novel.



Metonymy and Synecdoche

Perhaps the most important metonymy deployed in the novel is the early substitution of "master" when "human" is meant. This importantly breaks down, however, when Majnoun begins to get close with Nira and ultimately loses sight of her as a master in any regard. Tracing how "master" is used throughout the novel thus allows us to note the changing contours of the canine-human relationship.


The novel does not make extensive use of personification, instead opting to literally (rather than figuratively) endow animals with human characteristics.