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Merriam Webster - an Emotional State or Reaction

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Autor:   •  December 5, 2017  •  Essay  •  1,577 Words (7 Pages)  •  211 Views

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Merriam Webster defines feelings as “an emotional state or reaction” (1), while intelligence is defined as “the ability to learn or understand or to deal with the new or trying situations” (2). Based on these definitions, we are able to come to the understanding that we are faced with feelings every day, and these feelings are closely linked to one, or several, of our senses. Whether we see, hear, smell, taste or touch something, our intelligence helps us to react, positively or negatively. Reading is an activity that helps to create a bond between our ability to understand and our reactions to this understanding. The novel Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis is a novel of feelings, because it raises the question of whether intelligence equates happiness. However simply because it is a novel about feelings, it does not necessarily mean that it is a novel about happiness. The novel helps to bring forward a myriad of feelings related to the plot of giving dogs human intelligence and watching the story unfold. It also helps the reader create emotional attachments to certain characters and aversion to others; and finally because of human nature (3), the reader cannot help but to go through several emotions, mostly of compassion and sadness, while reading this novel.

The Gods Apollo and Hermes, while discussing philosophy, eventually move on to the topic of intelligence equating happiness. A friendly wager is placed and the Gods each choose a side on whether if animals were given human intelligence, would they be more or less happy than actual humans. I believe that in order to understand this, we must first understand what happiness is. It has been defined as “a state of well-being and contentment” or “a pleasurable or satisfying experience” (4), and if this definition is applied to the first few dogs that we are introduced to in our novel, then the answer is that intelligence is far from the equivalent of happiness. This is simply because the dogs are suddenly given intelligence, and with this intelligence comes the understanding of memories and the sadness that it sometimes entails: “She did not know that this decision meant her death. It did not occur to her – it could not - that her mistress had left her to face death on her own” (Alexis, p 18). We see here that Agatha, thanks to her newly found intelligence, died feeling abandoned because she became aware that she had been left to die, without her mistress by her side. This event, along with the death of the other dogs, brings us closer to the notion that “ignorance is bliss”, since through their newfound intelligence, they are also given a deeper grasp on pain, longing and sadness.

Emotional attachments are created throughout the novel to certain characters because of the morals instilled in us. Humans want and need a hero in every story, and we need the lines of good and bad to be made clear for us. Like everything else in life, the things we like, we are attracted to, and the things that we dislike, we deem as bad, therefore we create aversions to them. Atticus is introduced as the eventual pack leader, he is bossy, controlling, manipulative and somewhat paranoid. These traits ignite strong feelings of dislike towards him by the reader. He helps us to better understand that intelligence does not equate happiness, because he is actually very intelligent, but he tries to use this newly achieved type of intelligence to attain perfection. This quest is admirable, but is hindered by his idea of what an “ideal or pure dog might be: a creature without the flaws of thought” (Alexis, p.95). Even he believes that his intelligence, which creates thoughts, is keeping him from achieving perfection. In order for him to reach his state of well-being or contentment, he must achieve perfection. Here once again, we are made to understand that intelligence does not equate happiness. And also that this novel, while a novel about feelings, is not about happy feelings either.

We are also introduced to Majnoun and Prince. Two different types of characters, because while both are likeable, they use their intelligence differently from the other dogs, but also differently from one another. Majnoun uses his intelligence to better himself by learning the human language: “Then, too, he gradually learned more about their language, moving beyond its rudiments. To begin with, he took in the subtleties of tone (…) In fact, Majnoun’s fascination with tone of voice is what led to his first serious contretemps with the woman” (Alexis, p.44). Prince, on the other hand, uses his newfound intelligence towards creative self-expression through poetry: “Longing to be sprayed (the green snake/writhing in his master’s hand)/back and forth into that stream -/jump rinse: coat slick with soap.” (Alexis, p. 81). We are drawn to these characters, not because they lack flaws, but due to the fact that while they are intelligent, their simplicity helps to create an attraction towards them that comes from a positive place.

If the reader is a pet owner, they imagine what it would be like to have a dog like Prince or Majnoun, and how fascinating it would be to be around such dogs. Furthermore, attachments grow deeper and deeper throughout the story as Majnoun’s owners pass away in an accident, and he is left to wait for them until he eventually dies, too. We question whether Majnoun’s intelligence has helped him to achieve happiness. And the answer, while sad, knowing that his character does not make it, is still no. His intelligence helped him to build a rapport with his owners, and the reader grows attached to him because he in a way, represents the grumpy family dog. And also, his intelligence hinders his happiness, much like Atticus, but only because he questions the complexity of human beings. As for Prince, the writer tailors him to be likeable because he is like the happy family dog. Positive, hopeful, energetic, and now endowed with human intelligence. We root for him to make it and achieve his state of well-being and


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