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The Baddest Dog in Harlem

You’ll have to be tough to live in your American skin When we go to school or to our jobs we don’t have many worries. The worries we could have could be “Oh no, there’s a test today” or “Oh no, my boss wants me to do some paperwork” but what if we had to live in fear instead of worries? If in the morning we should fear to go to school or job because of the place we are living in, that we had to say properly goodbye to your family every day, what would that do to us? ”The Baddest Dog in Harlem” is writen by Walter Dean Myers and it is a fictional short story.

The short story takes place in Harlem, at 145th street[1].

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It could be in a year not far from the present, because of the technology used in the short story, such as cars[2] and automatic weapons[3] and it’s in the middle of the day. The neighborhood seems rough and seems like a place where you have seen the police often[4] and it seems like people are bored and doesn’t have many money or jobs[5]. The narrator and his friends are sitting at the rail outside Big Joe’s and talks about who’s the best fighter in the world. The conversation got heated up when Willie Murphy participate in the debate.

He is that kind of guy who always thinks he is right just because he is older than the others and when the narrator doesn’t think it can get worse Mr. Lynch, an even older man, joins the debate. Suddenly two polices cars are tearing around the corner. The stops in front of the boys and starts interrogate them and tell them to stay at the rail. Afterwards the cops start crunching behind their cars and look upon a window in the apartment at the other side of the street, pointing with their guns towards it. When the narrator realizes what is going on, he wanders off into a cafeteria nearby.

A cop comes into the cafeteria and he says there have been a report about someone with an automatic weapon and tells everybody to drop down on the floor. A cop trips and he guns goes off, all the cops start shooting and people are screaming and yelling. After a while the cops stops shooting and a girl who lives in the block turns up. The cops want her to go up to her apartment but she wants a black man with her and therefore a cop pulls the narrator with them. In her apartment everything is ruined and her dog is dead. The cops go to the apartment next door but come out in a hurry.

The narrator walks into the apartment and sees a boy lying on the bed shot and dead. The narrator is in first person and seems reliable and is also the main character in the short story. We only get to know about the narrators thoughts and feelings but we don’t hear much about them either, his personality is described by his thoughts and actions. The characters in the short story are not described only a little bit about Mr. Lynch and Willie but beside those two, are the character based upon their actions and sayings.

The narrator is a black man, because he refers to the black cop as a “brother”, we don’t know his age or his name but by based on the story I will approximately guess he is in his twenties. Willie is older than the narrator and is in his thirties[6] but the cop chose the narrator to go with Mary to her apartment[7] and therefore I don’t think he is a kid. The story is told in past tense and is chronological. When you read the short story you get a picture in you head of a ghetto and the language in the story is youthful and a bit slang[8].

They also leave words out. You get connotations in your head and you think about American movies where you also see the youth talk in this way. The general tone is positive but also a bit cool and laid back. They don’t try to sound smarter or different either when they talk to the police. They talk “their” language, which make it seem like they are an unity. I think the theme the narrator tries to get through in this short story, is the tough life there is in the ghetto. The boy who got shot in the ghetto was just watching television but he wasn’t safe anyway.

It’s a harsh environment to live in, an environment where you can be in constant fear of being robbed or shot. The song “American Skin (41 shots)” by Bruce Springsteen also gives a good perspective of how it is in America. He sings “No secret my friend, you can get killed just for living in, your American Skin[9]” The ssimilarities in the two texts is the theme. They are both trying to show how the world is every day for some people in America and to have an influence on us, make us think about those who aren’t as fortunate as we are and how we should ppreciate our way of living. I really think the short story and the song as well gives you something to think about. I believe the environment the narrator lives in makes him tough. When you’re living in a ghetto or an environment which is rough, you’ll have to be tough even though you on the inside is falling apart. And I think that’s what the narrator goes through. They are used to guns and crime, therefore are they not so afraid of the police and the situation and also the kids have it like this. But when the narrator sees the boy, he doesn’t want to speak about it.