Study Guide

There Is No Dog Quotes

By Meg Rosoff

  • Faith

    As she steps out into the light, Bob watches her [Lucy], shivering with devotion. (4.21)

    Devotion normally only applies to religious figures, so isn't it interesting that God Himself is expressing devotion to a mere human? And … maybe not the best way to go about being God? We don't know about you, but we like our gods to be a little more impartial.

    And was this an excuse for him to be rained with curses and loathing from all mankind? Oh no. Because here was the clever bit: Bob had designed the entire race of murderers, martyrs and thugs with a built-in propensity to worship him. (12.38)

    Sometimes Bob is so bright, you have to wear shades. (Please forgive us for the corny jokes.) Rosoff probably puts this in here because it's the only good explanation for why people would worship someone like Bob. Fun fact: some evolutionary theorists think that we do have a built-in propensity to worship.

    That night, Lucy climbed into bed, too agitated to sleep. She thought of talking to God, her God—a benign, all-seeing sort of deity who didn't get too involved with the day-to-day running of life, but who (she imagined) liked to be kept informed—a sort of thoughtful philosophy professor of a God, passing his days in contemplation of the moral complexities of good and evil. (15.13)

    Ah ha ha! How wrong Lucy is! That doesn't describe Mr. B or Bob in the slightest! While this book is all about breaking down traditional images of God, Lucy's idea is the most traditional one you could get.

    Let's face it, he'd [Bob] eked some serious mileage out of the God thing. Getting that old guy to drag his son up a mountain? Cool! Smiting of the firstborn? Yes! Turning the errant into pillars of salt? Fun! Once upon a time it had been all burning bushes, plagues of frogs and partings of the seas, scaring the living daylights out of his creations by booming down in scary voices and handing stone tablets out of the sky. Now he was barely allowed to make a parking space become suddenly available. (16.10)

    So Bob means to say that most of the stuff that happened in the Bible was him acting out heavenly Punk'd episodes? How does that change how we understand these moments?

    They [the whales] were the only species with the intelligence to contact him directly, bypassing not only human intervention, but also Bob, for they (quite sensibly) did not believe in him. (28.24)

    Well, it does sound like a smart move not to rely on either Bob or humans. But it's a little weird that the whales don't believe in Bob, since we know quite well that he exists. Is Rosoff suggesting that belief matters more than whether or not something actually exists?

    Bernard wanted very badly to believe that he and God had a single goal, and that the goal involved the eradication of suffering. Not that he believed, exactly, that suffering could be eradicated. But he believed in the process, the desire to make things better. Without human perfectibility as a goal, he could see no purpose to life on earth. (30.2)

    Bernard's faith seems to be more in human ability than in God. This raises a question for us: is it possible to have a religion without some sort of God or other supernatural being?

    The vicar frowned. Something about this young man set the hairs on the back of his neck prickling, and his first impulse was to turn him straight back out into the rain. The muscles in his arms tensed. (30.27)

    Bernard's spider sense is tingling. He may be able to sense the presence of God in some way, but it's definitely not a good feeling. (We'd advise running.)

    It is he, not Bob, who cares for this world. Bob is not, and never has been, fit to rule. He is a cog. A boob. A cur. He is no God. If there even is such a thing as God, thinks Mr. B. If there is such a being, it cannot be Bob. (44.14)

    When even extraterrestrial, almost-omnipotent, immortal beings aren't sure if there's a God, the rest of us are definitely going to have a hard time figuring it out.

    He [Mr. B] hesitates, and all at once a realization explodes in his brain like a bomb. He groans, gripping the desk to avoid falling. Why has he never seen it before? The obviousness of it. With purest clarity he realizes that Bob is not the God to whom the multitudes direct their entreaties. […] If there is such a being, it is not the indifferent, underage parent of this world, the thoughtless creator. It is the other, the one who has struggled day after day to make things better, to answer a few prayers, right a few wrongs, who has suffered along with his planet and tried to fix things, in however small a manner, to change a detail here and there for the good of humankind, for the creatures, for all who suffer and long for a better life. No. Bob is not God. He is. (44.19)

    After hundreds of pages of wondering what his role is on Earth, Mr. B finally gets it in this quote, with just four chapters to go. Is he right? Is he God? Is Bob? Are they both? Or is there actually no God at all?

    Around the world in every place without hope or light, the people stand, faces upturned with wonder. For a brief instant in the long and painful history of the planet, wars stop, blood feuds are forgotten, no one is murdered or desperate or sad. The entire world hesitates, uncertain and amazed. Perhaps, some think, the Red Sea really did part. Perhaps stone tablets truly did come down from the sky. If whales can fly, surely more miracles are possible? Tomorrow another; the day after, another? (46.32)

    Most people these days don't believe in miracles. (IPhones are miraculous enough for us, thanks.) Do you think people would have faith after an event like this, or just chalk it up to a government conspiracy or mass delusion?

  • Love

    And then there was her mother, always nudging her in the direction of suitable men, while hinting that in her day, you didn't just sit around waiting for Mr. Right; you went out, were proactive. The result of all this proactivity struck Lucy as equivocal. Her mother had obviously experienced many things in her time, but had ended up marrying her father—a perfectly dear man, but one with whom (even to Lucy's affectionate eye) she appeared to have little in common. Lucy's brain slid to her Godfather, Bernard, as it had many times over the years. Had her mother been proactive with him? (7.19)

    According to Lucy's mom, we should all be on looking for love. But we're not so sure she's right. After all, she's talking about finding Mr. Right—not finding the love of your life. It's possible those aren't the same thing at all.

    Bob's mouth twisted; his eyes glittered with unshed tears. "You know. Flowers and love songs and that. Like they do it." (18.21)

    For all that Bob created the world, he doesn't know much about it. Bob is kind of like an alien (okay, guess he actually is an alien) looking down at our customs, and so he mistakes the TV-and-radio kind of love for the real deal.

    "I love her more than the moon and the stars. And all that stuff." "Of course." Mr. B paused, wondering how much Bob cared for the moon and the stars, if at all. (29.80)

    Oh, yeah. Very convincing. Will you be sending out the divorce notice at the same time as the marriage announcement, or do you think you'll wait a week or two?

    "You don't even have the first idea. She's amazing. She's miraculous. She's the most incredible, beautiful girl. And I made her." Mr. B raised an eyebrow. Bob recoiled. "Not like that. I made the people who made her and the ones who made them and the ones who made them. And so on and so on, back and back and back. And each set of perfect combinations came together because of the way I made them." (28.82)

    So, um, how much does Bob actually love Lucy? He sure talks about how he made her a lot. We don't want to be gross, but is this just him masturbating again in a really really weird way?

    Something about this scene ignites a tiny flame in Mr. B's heart and he cannot tear his eyes from it. Estelle is not beautiful—but the pure clarity of her features makes her as irresistible to him as an angel. He would like to be in the boat with them, in the place of the Eck. He would like to be held in the arms of this clear-eyed, clear-voiced girl, who seems to be the only creature among all his acquaintances who cares for something besides self-glorification and the gratification of her own desires. (34.37)

    Here we go: this seems like the first spark of love. Notice how, unlike all the scenes of Lucy and Bob, things are not going insane.

    Bob watched her, and knew that he too had been wrong about the world. It had been veiled even from him, its creator, and now lay before him in a fullness of glory. (35.33)

    Bob seems to be suggesting here that he hasn't really lived until he's loved, but (1) we're not so sure about that, and (2) we're also not so sure that he's actually in love—maybe a lot more like lust.

    Was he madly in love, or just mad? Was love meant to be so much like falling? (35.48)

    Good question Lucy. We wonder if she knows that, according to science, love looks a whole lot like drug addiction?

    "Oh," she sighed. "Don't even joke about it. I felt so happy on Saturday when I thought it might actually be over." When I had sex with Bob. Amazing sex. Or was it love? Amazing love? Either way, he hadn't called. Why hadn't he called? (37.19)

    All this time Lucy has been assuming that love and sex are a package deal (hint: they're not). She still seems a little confused here, but it sounds like she's starting to get a clue.

    If I didn't care, my eyes would not ache and my gut would not churn and none of this idiocy would bother me. […] I care about earth and all of Bob's tragic creations. I care about Estelle, and I care about Eck, he thought, though I cannot allow myself to think of him, for there is nothing I can do to reverse his fate. I care about Mona, despite a clear understanding of her faults. […] How pathetic I am, he thought. I even care about Bob. (38.27)

    This novel focuses so much on romantic love that it's easy to forget that there are other kinds of love too. Like the love that Poppa Mr. B has for everyone! Aww.

    "Go, Bernard. A little heartbreak, that's all. Part of the human condition. It won't be the last time." The look they shared spoke of the sympathy and wisdom of age, of its disappointments and yearnings, its habit of unacknowledged feelings. (42.28)

    Here's a thought: maybe heartbreak is part of the human condition because Bob created us in his image, and he's not too good at the whole love thing.

    He would like to wake up with someone, a woman worth crawling out of the warmth for. On a morning such as this, he would pad through to the kitchen to put the coffee on, present it to her as an offering. He would happily suffer the cold floor beneath his feet in exchange for the happiness of returning to bed for a few minutes to drink coffee and talk. (45.4)

    It's interesting that Luke associates love with sacrifice. Maybe that's why Bob can never truly love—because he doesn't know how to sacrifice himself.

  • Lust

    God is dreaming of water. In his dream there is a fountain, and a naked girl, and (of course) there is him. The water is warm, the girl willing; her flesh is soft. He reaches out a hand to caress her breast, curls his fingers instead round one slim arm . . . (2.1)

    This scene is a perverted version of the perfectly innocent scene that happens in the beginning of chapter one, where we meet Lucy. Guess that tells us a lot about the differences between Bob and Lucy.

    "I'll have her," says God. (2.35)

    Gee, Bob can sure say a lot without saying very much at all. By saying "have" Bob implies that he can posses Lucy like a doll or a nice sandwich or a vintage Ramones LP. Of course, he's God, so he can. But that doesn't mean we have to like it.

    And then Bob went on to create every creeping thing, and some that leapt and climbed and slithered and tunneled as well, and he told them to be frantic and multiply, which they did by the most gobsmackingly weird mechanism Mr. B had ever observed, one that slightly embarrassed him as well. He wanted to tap the boy on the shoulder and say, "Excuse my presumption, but are you quite certain about that?" (6.14)

    Well, we guess it makes sense that a sex-crazed God would make his creatures use sex to reproduce. (Although it's definitely a little more complicated than budding.)

    "Excellent. Send her my love. Use a condom. Try not to talk about your job too much—you know the effect it has on women." (12.37

    Wait, does God really need to use a condom? And what happens if he doesn't? Excuse us, we're going go hide before we get smote (smited? smitten?) for that heretical question. But before we go, this does raise a serious question: exactly how much like humans is Bob?

    "Can't you just do the usual? Appear to her in a vision, give her a stigmata or two, blacken up your eyes, assume your most mournful expression? Don't they always fall for the hollow-eyed holy-seer thing?" Mr. B recognized the cycle: unrequited lust, idealized passion, consummation . . . and then he'd be on to the next, leaving the latest victim seduced, ruined and abandoned. What was wrong with him that (in how many dozens of millennia?) he'd never managed to learn anything useful from experience? (12.64)

    Here's a radical idea: maybe Bob should just try being himself instead of acting all holy-seer. Or—better idea—maybe he should try dating someone his own age. (As in, immortal.)

    She sank lower and lower toward sleep; waves of drowsiness lulled her softly, like long strokes of a hand, slowly, lower and lower, two hands now, each cupping a buttock and then moving, edging carefully down between her . . . Oh my giddy aunt , she thought, shooting upright in the dark. He's here! I can actually feel his fingers! (15.22)

    Whoa. This is getting a little too real for us, Shmoopers—and it's getting a little too real for Lucy, too. But check her out: God is totally molesting her, and the worst phrase she can come up with is "Oh my giddy aunt." Now that is a good girl.

    Did humans do this all the time? What a colossal waste of energy. Sex or no sex, he'd much rather be somewhere else. (26.8)

    Hm. Now we're wondering how much time we spend on our relationships. (Oh and by "we" we don't mean Shmoop, because who needs sex when you have great works of literature? Are we right? Guys?)

    "Never mind. Tea and cakes have been served, and we're all settling down to some nice Haydn quartets. Even the children are listening. Very good for the savage beast, you know." Breast, he thought, averting his eyes. Savage breast. (30.12)

    (1) The actual phrase is "Music has charms to soothe the savage breast," but it's often misquoted as "savage beast." So, yeah, Bernard is just correcting Laura here. But (2) it also reminds us that vicars are people, too—and this particular one seems to have had a thing for Laura once upon a time.

    Of course he did. Lucy attracted a great deal of interest—what mother could possibly remain ignorant of that fact? Laura was somewhat disturbed by her daughter's wanton ability to arouse. So different from her own tidy sexuality. (30.43)

    Laura calls her own sexuality "tidy" and Lucy's "wanton." We guess just like everything else about her, Laura's sexuality stays in nice, clean, predetermined lines.

    Why hadn't he called? Or come to see her? Had it meant so little to him? Had she meant so little? Was sex all he wanted? And the talk of love—was that nothing too? The sandwich in her throat turned to clay. She wanted to cry. (41.16)

    Before we start pointing the finger at Bob, do you think it's that easy to separate love from lust? Could he have been honest at the time?

  • Isolation

    Perhaps, she thought, it would be best if she didn't go into the whole thing about leering boys with the Holy Father. "I hope you don't mind my pointing out that it does put people off sometimes. Not that I'm complaining." Was she? "It's just that people seem not to see me sometimes. See me, that is, the real me." (15.15)

    Weird, isn't it? The same beauty that you'd think would have Lucy swimming in boyfriends actually ends up isolating her from people. It's hard to be different—whether you're extremely beautiful, extremely smart, or—like Bob—extremely God-like.

    The thought of seeing her again made him giddy. Was it possible that after all these years he had finally found a woman who would love him for his real true self? The him with emotions and feelings and needs beyond all that Supreme Ruler stuff? (16.25)

    Okay, wait a minute. Doesn't Bob create his own isolation by always transforming into something else to find love? We're not even sure there really is a real him beneath all that Supreme Incompetence stuff.

    For whole moments at a time, you could almost feel sorry for him. He did look lost. And if (by some quirk of fate) Mr. B happened to be in the mood to notice, he could see the isolation that enveloped Bob like a shroud, and the sadness too. (12.60)

    Okay, so God isn't just a horny teenager, but a depressed horny teenager. Maybe he should try getting more sleep? Or maybe finding some nice friends his own age to play basketball with, or whatever.

    She wasn't entirely sure what to make of his family history, but nonetheless sensed something vulnerable in Bob, something lonely and worthy of love. (26.44)

    Lucy's take on Bob is a little odd, because she seems to be linking "lonely" with "worthy of love." Why would the two be connected? Does everyone deserve to be loved?

    He [Bob] trembled at the thought of Lucy; a bubble of happiness exploded in his chest. We, he thought. Lucy and me: together. He marveled at the power of this human girl to make the terrible solitude of his life recede. This was what happiness felt like—this wondrous, miraculous alternative to dread. (33.22)

    Poor Bob. Horny, depressed, and also in a constant state of dread. We're not sure what he's been dreading, but maybe it has something to do with, oh, being alone forever? Which, in the case of an immortal, literally is forever.

    No world was as beautiful as this world he'd created, Bob thought, none so delicately poised between life and death. Mr. B might berate the short-lived race he'd made, berated it all the time, in fact. But he was proud of the experiment, proud of the weird evanescence all those short lives produced. OK, maybe it wasn't so nice for them, but at least they didn't drag along day after bloody day, always the same. Always alone. (34.22)

    Okay, here's the big answer to why God made us mortal: so we'd appreciate being alive. See, Bob doesn't get too much of a kick out of the whole immortal thing, since there's nothing to make being alive seem special. Um, OK. Thanks? We guess.

    Bob looked at Lucy and knew—he knew—that with her by his side he would never be lonely again, would never again suffer the heart-wrenching isolation of his position. Lucy would share every aspect of his life, the good and the bad; she would love him and be loved. (35.22)

    This is your classic case of a power imbalance. Bob is, you know, God; Lucy is 21. And a virgin. There is absolutely no way this relationship is every going to be equal, and there is no way it's going to work. There just isn't.

    "Just what? Oh, I get it—you noticed that I'm a teensy bit less suicidal than usual and you've come to fix that?" (36.9)

    Even teenage Gods hate parental interference, which raises a question: is Bob ever going to grow up? No, seriously. Was he born a teenager, or do gods just age really, really, really slowly?

    He [Luke] chose his turret in a spirit of self-denial, he now thinks. Locking himself off from the world. He laughs at himself. Such a princess. Perhaps he has had enough of exile. (45.4)

    Unlike other characters, Luke chooses his isolation, but we're not sure it works out the way it was supposed to. Maybe if he'd been a little less closed off, he and Lucy could have gotten together in the first place and avoided all this mess.

    When Bernard stands up, the other man [Mr. B] looks suddenly as if he might cry. "Don't run off, please. I'm sorry. I talk too much." (45.33)

    Why do you think it's so important to Mr. B that Bernard doesn't leave? We've talked a lot about Bob's isolation, but it occurs to us that poor Mr. B is pretty lonely, too—and Bernard seems like a man who might understand him.

  • Suffering

    "You never pay attention to me! You don't care about anyone other than those poxy poor people in your poxy files." He put on a nyah-nyah whine. " Oh, look at me, I've got AIDS, I was in a war, my baby's dead. If you're so worried about them, why don't you go live in the bloody Democratic bloody Republic of Tonga—""Congo." "Bloody Democratic bloody Republic of bloody stupid-arse Congo." (18.11)

    This has got to be the weirdest temper tantrum ever. Notice that Bob can't even remember the name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That's how much he cares.

    In the middle of the Pacific, tsunamis gained momentum. Tornadoes devastated Kansas and the eastern Chinese coastal province of Jiangsu. And all because the Almighty had fallen head over heels in love with an assistant zookeeper. It wasn't a joke, and would become less of a joke as the situation progressed. God falls in love; thousands die. (26.131)

    Rosoff gives us two scales so that we see how unjust the suffering Bob is causing really is. By starting out with a huge global scale, she suggests that the zookeeper, and an assistant zookeeper at that, is especially trivial.

    It wasn't that he didn't like to fix things. But every adjustment led to unexpected repercussions, a chain of reactions certain to render the original deed null and void. He'd had plenty of experiences like that: the sweet child saved from death who grew up to be Vlad the Impaler. Mr. B felt like some sort of cursed accountant, with figures that eternally refused to add up. (28.15)

    Yeah, we don't particularly like having to do the math on that one, either: is it the needs of the many or the needs of few? Or the one? (Is that a single tear we feel slipping down our cheeks?)

    And who knew what else the nudge displaced? The tap that slipped the doctor sideways could slide a truck into a crowd, topple a climber into a ravine, nudge a surgeon's blade. And for what? To postpone a single incident of death or suffering because one face in ten billion had caught his eye? Was he the only one who found this situation intolerable? (28.18)

    With these kinds of odds, it's a miracle any of us survive to old age. The question is, is it better for Mr. B to try to fix things—or will we just end up making things worse?

    "It's really tragic, all this peculiar weather," Lucy said as they left the zoo together. She stopped to stare at a ruined stroller, overturned in a puddle. "So many lives messed up." They walked in silence for a moment. "I heard on the news that the death toll is in the thousands." Bob shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away. "It's not my fault," he muttered. (29.54)

    Um. Correct us if we're wrong, but isn't it Bob himself who attached the weather to his emotions? And doesn't that make it entirely his fault?

    Bob rolled his eyes. Sick, starving, it was all the same. He couldn't see what the big deal was. Any observer with half a brain knew that there'd always been an underclass—serfs, slaves, untouchables—and, furthermore, that they probably deserved their horrible fates. (33.25)

    Okay, major problemo. If we just accept that suffering is a fact of life, then there's no reason to try to fix anyone. Someone dying on the street? Eh. Can't fix it, might as well not try. That's not much a way to run a world, in our opinion.

    Bob closes his eyes and, with an enormous roar, brings the building down upon them all. It falls in on itself, a vast bouncing hole filled with filthy water and rubble. The collapse throws up a crashing wave that slams against the building opposite and turns back on itself in the narrow road. Like the casualties of a terrible disaster at sea, people scream and weep and bleed and drown, leaving dark stains on the surface of the water, along with the contents of their homes and bowels and skulls.[…] He turns to go, stepping carefully over the body of a young woman crushed in what is left of the stairwell. Surely it is time that he and Mr. B found a new place to live in any case, maybe bigger, in a better neighborhood, with more windows and a nicer view. (40.25)

    Oh, this is a nice contrast. Bob wants a nicer view; innocent people don't want to scatter the contents of their bowls and skulls on the driveway. Yep, everyone wants something.

    "OK, it doesn't look so bad today. But just you wait. Some awful new thing will begin any minute. It always does." The older man shrugs. "It's not cruelty, you see. It's thoughtlessness. Negligence." He looks away and his face sags. "Who knows," he says softly. "Perhaps even a lack of clarity as to the nature of his responsibility." (45.39)

    Well, nice for Mr. B, but we're not so sure that Bob isn't cruel. If negligence and thoughtlessness cause needless suffering, isn't that just another word for cruelty?

    Churning in Mr. B's brain is a great stinking stew—of faith, commitment and love in the face of indifference, betrayal, despair. The world is not just full of suffering—it is full of perversity, of things that go horribly wrong more or less at random. For the hell of it. (45.43)

    Straight-out suffering and perverse suffering may happen for different reasons, but the result is the same. We're wondering if it really matters why something happens.

    Around the world in every place without hope or light, the people stand, faces upturned with wonder. For a brief instant in the long and painful history of the planet, wars stop, blood feuds are forgotten, no one is murdered or desperate or sad. The entire world hesitates, uncertain and amazed. Perhaps, some think, the Red Sea really did part. Perhaps stone tablets truly did come down from the sky. If whales can fly, surely more miracles are possible? Tomorrow another; the day after, another? (46.32)

    Okay, but here's the thing: maybe instead of miracles, we could just, you know, have a world that works. Yeah, miracles are impressive and cool and they make great gifts. But wouldn't it be nice if they weren't necessary? It's a real question. Bob would say, definitely not.

  • Mortality

    Until the poker game, he had been quite a feisty little soul, falling upon food each time with a glorious bleat of joy. He was a different Eck now that his life had been truncated, and who could blame him? Each meal he ate was one closer to his last. This was not an easy concept to swallow. Being mortal, he would, of course, have died eventually, but now he knew exactly when, and why, and (to an unpleasant extent) how. Now every tick of the clock brought him closer to oblivion. (20.41)

    Poor Eck. The clock is literally ticking on his life, and it's changed him. Awareness of his mortality has made him into an entirely different creature—a mortal one. Is it better for us to go around acting as though we're immortal?

    He [Bob] wasn't thinking of forever, of growing old with Lucy as his wife, sitting together on a bench in some windswept seaside town, her elderly swollen ankles in stout black shoes, distended knuckles resting on arthritic knees. Such visions meant nothing to him because he would always be exactly as he was now, despite the passage of time. His humans would change, grow old and die, disappear from earth and be forgotten, while he went on the same. (26.98)

    We guess that just like humans freak out about immortals, immortals just don't get the way that mortals see "forever." No wonder that Lucy and Bob are doomed. This is a pretty major issue to disagree about.

    They ate in silence. Eck had stopped begging at the table for scraps; even his insatiable hunger seemed to have waned. Hunger was just another pain he endured now as evidence that he was still alive—along with despair. If he starved, well, maybe it wasn't the worst way to die. ( 28.7)

    Suffering is such a huge part of being mortal that it signifies life for Eck. Gee, that's a little depressing. Why not happiness or joy?

    Whenever Eck thought about the world after he was gone from it, he felt dizzy and full of terror. An eternity dead, while the rest of the world went about its business not thinking about him at all—how could that be? It seemed cruel to him, being put on earth just long enough to comprehend the full horror of extinction. (32.18)

    Would it be less cruel if the Eck didn't know he was going to die? Would you rather die suddenly—or would you like to have time to settle your affairs and say goodbye? Ugh, now we're seriously depressed.

    Why did you bother creating me, he wanted to ask. Why bother giving me a brain and a realization of how miserable existence can be? Why did you invent creatures who die and, worse, who know they are going to die? What is the point of so unkind an act of creation? (32.23)

    Poor Eck. There are lots of different answers for these kinds of questions—and here's a better question: does it really matter what the answer is? Bob's answer is that he thinks it's more beautiful. Forgive us for not being comforted by that answer.

    No world was as beautiful as this world he'd created, Bob thought, none so delicately poised between life and death. Mr. B might berate the short-lived race he'd made, berated it all the time, in fact. But he was proud of the experiment, proud of the weird evanescence all those short lives produced. OK, maybe it wasn't so nice for them, but at least they didn't drag along day after bloody day, always the same. Always alone. (34.22)

    Bob's not talking about the band Evanescence here, he's talking about fleeting, temporary moments that disappear in a flash. (Okay, maybe he is talking about the band. Badum-zing!)

    "But I'd never fall in love with one. Imagine the explaining you'd have to do. Think of the look on Lucy's face when you tell her who you are." (36.16)

    Mr. B sees the appeal of mortals, but he knows that any relationship with them is doomed.

    "It's not right. Mortality is a terrible notion." Mr. B looks up at Bernard and lowers his voice, conspiratorially. "It's not like this everywhere, you know." (45.17)

    Woo-ee! No wonder Bernard thinks Mr. B is crazy. We wonder what a world full of immortals would look like—probably a lot of people holding really long grudges.

    "One hopes," he says, "after a long life, surrounded by loving family and the memory of good works . . ." "That it might not seem such a bad prospect?" Mr. B frowns. "Now, you see, I think that's untrue. The occasional person genuinely doesn't mind. But most do." He removes his spectacles and begins cleaning them on his handkerchief. "Something about eternal nothingness really rocks the boat." (45.21)

    Here's the thing: maybe people don't mind dying at the end of a long life if they think they've got all eternity waiting for them (as in Christianity) or the prospect of a few more long lives (in faith traditions that believe in reincarnation. But Mr. B isn't offering either of those—just nothingness. Yeah, that sounds a little scary.

    "Just look at them trundling along pretending that cataclysmic nothingness isn't waiting for them just round the bend. I watch them sometimes and I think that it doesn't really matter how much I worry about them. It's all over so fast. A bit of suffering—an entire lifetime, even. It's nothing, really." He pauses. "In the greater scheme of things, they may as well be fruit flies. So what if no one answers their prayers? Poof! Wait a minute or two, and your problem is gone. Dead. Buried. Forgotten." (45.28)

    Hm. Easy for Mr. B to say, but a lifetime feels pretty long if you're the one living it. (Pro tip: put out some apple cider vinegar to trap those fruit flies.)

  • Friendship

    He hadn't known it was possible to experience so many intense feelings at once—misery, love, hunger, suspicion, excitement and of course the ever-present terror of mortality. The enormity of it made him quiver like a leaf. (27.6)

    That's a lot of feelings for a tiny little Eck. But this is also the only relationship between a mortal (Eck) and immortal (Estelle) that seems to work—so maybe Bob should try just being friends with Lucy.

    "Now I'm back," she said. "And do you know why?" Eck examined the question from every angle. It seemed a bit risky to guess. Estelle looked at him, her expression steady. "It's because I like you. And also because I'm extremely unhappy about my father's bet." (27.19)

    That is how you know you have a real friend. They will go across galaxies looking at all the cool things in the known universe, but they will come back because they like you.

    "I . . ." She paused to select precisely the right words. "I am doing what I can to influence him. But in the meantime, I should like us to be friends." (27.21)

    Why do you think that Estelle wants to be friends with Eck? What can the Eck possibly offer a radical chick like Estelle? Here's an idea: companionship. Estelle seems just as lonely as anyone else. Sure, she's got her dad—but, come on. In God-mode, dad turns into an angry black hole. Not really someone you can cuddle up to.

    He supposed that in the absence of a future, a friend might be nice. (27.22)

    If you can't be immortal, you might as well be a friend. Someone slap that on a bumper sticker already.

    "Eck," he mumbled, and she saw big mingled tears of joy and sadness well up in his eyes. Long watery trails ran down to his face. (27.34)

    Man, Eck sure gets a lot of the emotional scenes for a tiny animal that's supposed to be insignificant. Hm. Maybe he's more important than we think.

    Bob would be home any minute. He would never allow Eck to have a friend. (27.39)

    If there's one thing we know about God, it's that he's jealous. But this is really sad for Eck: not only is he mortal, he doesn't have a friend to be bummed out it with. We're really glad Estelle rescued him.

    A friend, thought Eck. Of course she probably wanted something from him, but he didn't mind. He couldn't afford to be selective about friends, having had no other offers, and none likely in the foreseeable future. After which he would be dead. (27.41)

    This is your classic case of abuse: Eck has been so burned by his relationship with Bob that he just can't imagine anyone would want to be friends with him just for his own, funny-looking self.

    She murmurs sweet words to him and he wriggles a little, snuggling closer; the sound he makes isn't one Mr. B has ever heard before—a sigh of such perfect complexity that it rewrites everything he has imagined Bob's pet capable of feeling. (34.36)

    Everyone assumes the Eck isn't capable of love or friendship, but we get the feeling that no one has ever bothered to find out. Turns out, Eck might be more capable of friendship than anyone else in the book.

    "You don't care about me at all. No one cares about me except Lucy. Not even my own mother. Not even you." Lucy doesn't care about you, Mr. B thinks. Not the real you, at any rate. She has no idea who—or what—you are. But I do. (39.31)

    This almost makes it sound like Bob and Mr. B are friends. Well, maybe not friends—maybe just heterosexual life partners. They're something, at any rate.

    In the meantime, his feelings for her have knitted them together like two parts of the same bone. (43.4)

    We'd just like to point out that this simple sentence about Estelle and Eck being friends is more intense than any description of the feelings between Bob and Lucy throughout the whole novel. This, Shmoopers, is true love.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Then she straightens and resumes her walk, humming a little prayer, which is not so much a prayer as a hope, a private incantation: "Dear God," she prays, "I should like to fall in love." (1.8)

    Is there really a difference between a prayer and a hope? Maybe one difference is that a prayer is directed at someone, while a hope is personal. But if God is lazy or just not listening, is it still a prayer?

    God's passion for humans always leads to catastrophe, to meteorological upset on an epic scale. What is wrong with the boy that he can't get it up for some nice Goddess? Why, oh why, can't he pursue a sensible relationship, one that will not end in disaster? (2.37)

    It almost seems like Bob is drawn to hopeless situations. Maybe he likes mortals because they will die—just like he thinks suffering and evanescence is beautiful. Hmm, maybe he's deeper than we thought.

    Mr. B has seen it all before. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes. God's unique inability to learn from his mistakes: yet another wonderful trait he's passed on to his creations. (2.38)

    Now we all know who to blame for the fact that, no matter how many times we tell ourselves we're not going to do it anymore, we still manage to lock ourselves out of the house.

    He hoped the committee would be proved right about Bob—hoped his energy and creativity would somehow make up for what looked, on paper, like a lamentable lack of experience. Mr. B shut his eyes and hoped against hope that somehow it would all turn out fine. He had lived long enough to grasp the danger of hope. (3.11)

    Wait, isn't hope good? Well, sure. Unless you just sit around and hope all day without doing anything about it.

    "I'm dedicating every minute of my life, as usual, to the futile pursuit of order. I am but a humble fisherman engaged in the hopeless task of unraveling the frantic net of despair you have cast upon the victims of your creativity."(18.2)

    Poor Mr. B is just like Sisyphus, pushing that rock up the wall. Hopeless. (Psst, Mr. B: not to spoil the ending, but things turn out pretty well for you in the end.)

    "What bad things? What are you talking about? I've done incredibly well! Everyone thinks so!" Mona looked away and studied her nails. "If you say so, darling." "Look." He struggled to regain control. "If I'm so completely useless, how did I get to be God?" Mona blinked, face arranged in an expression of genuine sympathy. "Perhaps no one else wanted the job?" Bob sat down hard. That possibility hadn't occurred to him. (22.40)

    Considering how obvious it is to everyone else, we wonder how Bob was able to ignore how he failed at everything he planned to do. Oh, right: because he's a lazy teenager. (Don't worry: we know that not all teenagers are lazy. But you have to admit, this one is.)

    Had he ever been happy? Would he ever be happy again? (34.34)

    And here are a few more questions: What does it mean to be happy? What do you think would make Mr. B happy? Besides some new wellies and a very sensible briefcase?

    "Did somebody say 'help'?" Mr. B looks up from his work. "Yes, help. Please help me," gabbles Bob, a miserable wretchlike version of his former self. "Everything's gone wrong." (40.32)

    Bob is an ideas man, but he's not so good at the follow-through. When things need to be done, Mr. B comes through. So now we're wondering: does anyone have both Bob's fantastic ideas and Mr. B's attention to detail? (And if so, will you send us your résumé?)

    "Perhaps the way to proceed is to think of life on earth as a colossal joke, a creation of such immense stupidity that the only way to live is to laugh until you think your heart will break." He [Mr. B] looks upward to the branches, rich with summer green, stares through them to the sky beyond. (45.43)

    Oh, Mr. B. If only you were mortal, because we would totally be your platonic life partner. Seriously, though, isn't he right? When things go wrong—you're late to work, it's raining, and your car battery dies; you ordered a pizza with extra cheese and they delivered a pizza with extra sauce; you have 10,000 spoons, and all you need is a knife—there's nothing to do but laugh.

    "I shall miss you all, and trust you to carry on, without me, the job I sought to do, and to remember in my name that there is much to accomplish on earth, despite what often appears to be the most hopeless burden of woe . . ."(48.34)

    This is your straight-up irony right here: Mr. B is going on and on about hopelessness when the most wonderful thing in the novel (Bob leaving) is just about to happen.