Heart of a Dog

Heart of a Dog Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9–Epilogue


Chapter 9

As Chapter 9 opens, we are told that Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal are not able to reprimand Polygraph properly the following morning because he has disappeared from the apartment. This infuriates Dr. Bormenthal, who first goes to Shvonder to inquire about his whereabouts. Shvonder says that it is not his responsibility to look after Polygraph, especially after the previous day, when Polygraph stole seven rubles from the house committee, allegedly to buy books. Fyodor is paid to help search for Polygraph, but he does not turn up.

Ultimately, however, just as Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal are about to enlist the militia's help to find Polygraph, he turns up in a large truck. As it turns out, Shvonder found him work working with the purge section of the government, clearing the streets of stray cats by choking them. After Dr. Bormenthal nearly chokes an apology out of Polygraph for Zina and Darya, Polygraph then says that the cats he kills will have their pelts turned into squirrel for the working class.

Two days pass with Polygraph going to work in this fashion. Just then, a young woman enters the apartment with Polygraph. He says that she will be his typist, and that they intend to marry and register to live together quite soon. Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal then very calmly separate the two, with Dr. Bormenthal taking Polygraph into the exam room and Professor Preobrazhensky taking the young lady into his office. Professor Preobrazhensky tells the young lady, who turns out to be the same woman from the gateway in Chapter 1, the truth about Sharik, and she sobs bitterly. Polygraph is then made to confront her directly and return the ring he took from her as a memento. She flees in anger and sadness, and Polygraph threatens her as she runs away. This makes Dr. Bormenthal turn on Polygraph, but just then Polygraph threatens to bring a revolver and confront Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal properly, then flees.

That evening, Professor Preobrazhensky is visited by a friend/patient in military uniform. The friend informs him that Polygraph has informed on him for his counterrevolutionary actions, including burning the Engels volume, generally speaking in counterrevolutionary terms, living with unregistered servants, and owning firearms. This situation resolves with the visitor indicating that he believes Polygraph to be a bastard, and that he is generally sympathetic with the professor. He also tells the professor that there are many rumors around Moscow about him.

The next day, Polygraph comes back to the apartment, and Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal try to kick him out. In response, Polygraph draws a revolver on Dr. Bormenthal, but those who live in Professor Preobrazhensky's apartment are able to subdue Polygraph. A note is then pasted on the door urging people not to ring the bell and disturb the professor. Dr. Bormenthal tells Zina and Darya, moreover, that they are not to leave the apartment. Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal then disappear into the examination room. After this moment, we hear that word on the street is that Zina was frightened later by Dr. Bormenthal, who was feeding a patient record into the fire. Professor Preobrazhensky, meanwhile, was seen with scratches all over his face. While the novel says that it is unclear what happened in the apartment that evening, and while it is unclear if Zina is lying, everyone knows that the apartment that evening was very quiet.


Ten days after the scrape in the examination room, police officers—accompanied by Shvonder and the house committee's young woman who dresses like a man—appear at Professor Preobrazhensky's apartment. They have a warrant to search Professor Preobrazhensky's apartment, on suspicion that he, Zina, Darya, and Dr. Bormenthal murdered Polygraph. In order to dispel their suspicions that a man was killed, Professor Preobrazhensky says that Polygraph was all along a dog, albeit one who could speak, but that the transformation of the dog into a human was not successful due to an atavistic reversion. To prove it, he produces Sharik, who is still easily recognizable as Polygraph, but distinctively more canine in appearance. The dog speaks, and the visitors are shaken. After one final threat from Dr. Bormenthal against Shvonder, the guests leave without incident.

The novel closes once again with Sharik's inner monologue. He remarks how lucky he is to be gifted a life in the apartment of Professor Preobrazhensky, and again he thinks of what in his breed or composition warrants such a luxury. The final image the novel closes on is Sharik watching Professor Preobrazhensky dig through brains in the examination room, singing an excerpt from Aida all the while.


These two final chapters of the novel, which represent the novel's climax and conclusion, weave together the themes developed earlier in the novel and bring them to their satisfactory resolutions. To this end, it is in these two chapters that situational irony is perhaps at its high point in the novel, as coincidences fall into place and the final satiric jabs at the Soviet government are made. Moreover, the narrative structure of these two chapters presents a different kind of irony wherein we expect Sharik to have been killed by the novel's end, but he was in fact merely reverted to his canine origins.

The first example of situational irony in these chapters comes when, due to the chapter break from Chapter 8 to Chapter 9, tension is built as we expect a punishment for Polygraph. As Chapter 9 opens, though, we are shocked to find out that he has disappeared from the apartment. Immediately after, a second irony is presented in that Polygraph stole money from Shvonder, who trusted him until that point despite his obvious degeneracy. Later on, a third irony comes when it is revealed that Polygraph's job is essentially to act like a dog and kill cats. Within this, an additional subversion lies in the fact that the cat pelts claimed by Polygraph are to be used in making faux squirrel for the working class, illustrating a way in which the government deceives the common people while purporting to serve their interests. Even after these events at the beginning of Chapter 9, still more ironic events occur. For example, Polygraph brings home a woman who turns out to be the same woman from the gate in the first chapter. When Polygraph informs on Professor Preobrazhensky, a senior official ironically comes to tell Professor Preobrazhensky of his statement and indicates that he sympathizes with the professor.

This lattermost instance of irony is particularly salient to the themes of the text. It echoes the earlier scene in which Professor Preobrazhensky is able to get Shvonder off his case by calling his superior at the housing committee, and it is an even more egregious example of one of the Soviet state's flaws. With regard to the scene with the housing committee supervisor, it is reasonable to expect that a well-connected person could avoid having his or her wealth redistributed by the government. Such is not the case here: such egregious violations of the code of an ideologically motivated society ought to reasonably bring anybody down; however, the professor is insulated from the law even in this dimension. Especially since the accusations are co-signed by Shvonder, the fact that Professor Preobrazhensky is able to avoid punishment is a very strong testament to the impotence and corruption of the Soviet state. This irony also complements the fact that Polygraph is able to attain a high-ranking office in the government, despite his general incompetence and bad attitude.

Finally, the narrative structure of these last two chapters supplies a final irony. Based on the way that Chapter 9 ends—that is, with a strange silence falling on the apartment, with the narrator saying that Sharik "invited his own death," the earlier conversation between Professor Preobrazhensky and Dr. Bormenthal about killing Sharik, and with Dr. Bormenthal burning Sharik's case file—we are lead to believe that Sharik has been killed in the skirmish in the examination room. Moreover, as we learn at the end of Chapter 9, this is the assumption that many people within the world of the text also make, contributing to gossip around the city about the professor and, in part, likely leading the police to come and question the professor at the beginning of the epilogue. Finally, by framing the final section of the novel as an "Epilogue," Bulgakov also implies that there is a degree of finality to whatever happens to Sharik, which also implies a kind of death. As we find out, however, the professor and Dr. Bormenthal have merely turned Sharik back into a dog—which then, of course, provides the final irony in the text as Shvonder and the inquiring officers are left embarrassed.

Together, these ironies and the virtuosic narrative conclusion of the text neatly complete Bulgakov's science-fiction diatribe against both the Soviet state and the overeager intelligentsia who would manipulate and exploit nature using advances in science. As one final irony too, there is the fact that, with Sharik restored to canine form, the novel has more or less returned to the status quo of its opening and introduction. So much has changed for the professor, Dr. Bormenthal, and Sharik over the course of the text, but by the novel's close, the Soviet Union is just as absurd as ever, and things are just as luxurious and peaceful for the bourgeois professor as they were originally.