- Dmitry comments in Dog Boy that '…the human was an animal at heart.' Discuss the idea that humans like other animals, are driven by a savage will to survive and, at times, a blinding need to nurture. Mamochka, Natalya, Dmitry, Romochka, Laurentia, the gangs and the militia show us that dogs and humans are not so very far from each other.
- 'But what I really, really wanted was to unsettle the notion that dogs are aliens,' Eva Hornung comments about Dog Boy. Discuss how she does this in the novel. What idea is she trying to explore by unsettling this notion?
- Romochka's uncle leaves him to starve. Mamochka and the clan protect him. Romochka is better off with the dogs than on the streets with humans. In what ways is this view of the novel too simplistic?
- '…feral children have always thrown up a question about the divide between human and other species. What makes us human? What part of us is animal, what part of us is above or beyond the animal?' Discuss Eva Hornung's comments. What, if any, answers does the text suggest? What do you believe makes us human?
- Eva Hornung has commented that the fascination with feral children is seeing the result of a life stripped of human nurture. This theme is explored in Dog Boy and many other texts. It's the subject of scientific experiments. Why does this fascination persist?
- Eva Hornung has referred to the story of Romulus and Remus in many of her interviews. Discuss the myth. What aspect of human nature does it attempt to explain?
- Romochka communicates with the dogs and with humans. Puppy barks. Is Puppy less human than Romochka? What questions does the text raise about the importance of language?
- Discuss the significance of Romochka's collecting. Why is Puppy drawn to his collection?
- 'When Romochka saw forest people in the city…he felt a pull. A feeling that they, alone among the others passing by, were of his kind.' (p.101) Discuss how Romochka is caught between two worlds. Where is he placed in the last scene? His final choice is human but his final act is animal. Is Romochka '…a walking human tragedy?' (p.214)
- The world of the dogs is completely believable. How does the author sink the reader into Moscow and the clan of the feral dogs? Discuss the importance of setting in the novel.
- On page 95 Romochka comments that '…he liked eating brave and beautiful things best.' On page 180 Puppy eats the crown '…for its beauty.' So many beautiful things are lost in the novel. So many ugly things become beautiful. Discuss the ideas that Hornung raises through the beautiful and the brutal in the novel.
- The dogs do not understand Romochka's hunt of his uncle. Discuss this idea that in this scene Romochka is disturbingly human.
- Discuss Romochka's fear of vulnerability and his anger at this emotion when it arises in others.
- 'People moved with practised blindness through the streets…In the city…children who stank were erased.' (p.100) Discuss the idea that the novel is about societal breakdown and the plight of the outsider. It's about what happens when we abandon our young. Or are the children a symbol of something else?
- Natalya and Dmitry are by far the most brutal animals in the book. Do you agree? In what ways is the scene with the peacock symbolic? What other things are dissected and kept?
- What is the significance of Romochka catching sight of his reflection? Discuss the importance of the scene on pages 168-174. Why contrast this scene with Romochka seeing Pievitza? (p.174)
- I don't eat dog, I don't eat human, I don't eat cat. Why is Romochka pleased with himself for thinking this? What themes of the novel are highlighted in his comment?
- 'He had just wanted Marko to be purely what he was instead of partially this, slightly that – and all he rest murky.' (p.211) Dmitry wants the impossible. We're all murky, aren't we?