Study Guide

There Is No Dog Themes

  • Faith

    Is there a God? Is there no God? Is there God who doesn't care about us? These are tricky questions—in There Is No Dog, not even the people who work with God every day quite know the answers. Should we have faith in God … or should we just have faith in ourselves? Mortals and immortals alike struggle with these questions throughout the novel. In the end, the only answer we seem to get is faith that things will be better in the future.

    Questions About Faith

    1. Who has faith in There Is No Dog? Who doesn't? What does faith look like in this novel?
    2. How do people with and without faith react to Bob in the novel? Are their reactions different? If so, why do you think they react that way?
    3. Both Bernard and Lucy are described as religious people in the novel. Describe their approaches to religion and faith. How are they different or the same? Is one more accurate than another?

    Chew on This

    By caring for Earth, Mr. B proves that he's really God.

    Godhood is about creation rather than preservation. Because Bob created (almost) everything on Earth, it's really he who is God.

  • Love

    Ah, love. How many poems, songs, and overly sweet drugstore boxed chocolates have been created in your honor? Everyone—even Bob—seems to want love in There Is No Dog, but actually getting it is pretty tricky. Just like in real life, some people get lucky; some people just get dumped. And some people are just way too wrapped up in themselves to even see it. Happily for Luke and Lucy (anyone else notice how similar their names are?), sometimes love is just where you're not looking for it.

    Questions About Love

    1. Who are the couples in this novel? What does their love look like? Are any of the couples especially convincing?
    2. What do you think Bob means by love? Is it the same as Lucy's definition?
    3. Is love in There Is No Dog something you have to be ready for? Is it something you have to search for, as Lucy's mom urges her? Or does it just come to you?

    Chew on This

    Everyone in There Is No Dog is looking for love.

    Bob is the book's most tragic figure, because only he doesn't end up with someone.

  • Lust

    If there's one lesson that human history has to offer, it's that people will do a lot for just a little bit of sex. Well, the gods are no different. Bob seems willing to destroy the whole earth for some sex in There Is No Dog. Not only that, but he doesn't even know if what he is feeling is love or lust. What's the difference? We wish we knew.

    Questions About Lust

    1. What is the difference between love and lust in this novel? Is there a difference?
    2. Are humans the only creatures In There Is No Dog that experience lust? If not, what other ones do?
    3. What is the pattern of all of Bob's relationships with human women? How do they end? How do they begin? How does Bob treat them?

    Chew on This

    Rosoff suggests that, unlike love, lust is not a universal feeling.

    There Is No Dog suggests that lust is basically a negative force in human relationships.

  • Isolation

    As Donkey said before he and Shrek became friends, "I'm all alone, there's no one here beside me." Humans spend a lot of time trying to feel less lonely—why else would sites like Match.com and eHarmony exist? Unfortunately, there's no dating site for Gods (that we know of). And there's no after church coffee hour for Bob, either. So how is he supposed to reach out and connect? (Don't say Facebook.)

    Questions About Isolation

    1. Why do you think that Bob feels so isolated throughout the novel? Is anyone presented as a potential friend?
    2. How are characters in There Is No Dog isolated, mentally and physically? Do they ever come out of isolation? Do any of the relationships seem believable or real?
    3. Is isolation ever presented positively in The Is No Dog? Are there any possible benefits to isolation?

    Chew on This

    Power is the greatest isolating force in There Is No Dog.

    In this novel, love rather than friendship is the cure to isolation.

  • Suffering

    Most people don't want to suffer, but we live in a world full of suffering. Some people ride in fancy cars while other people die of thirst; some people let their vegetables rot in their crisper (not that we've ever done that …), while other people die of hunger. It's a hard, unfair, cruel world. And There Is No Dog suggests that it was designed that way. While most of the characters are concerned with trying to figure out how to make a little less suffering in the world, Bob/God says inequality makes Earth beautiful. Who's right here? We think we can appreciate our ice cream without having to suck on a lemon first, but … what do we know? We're not God.

    Questions About Suffering

    1. How does There Is No Dog answer the question of why suffering exists? Are you satisfied with that answer?
    2. Are there moments in this novel when suffering appears to be good? Who benefit from suffering?
    3. Who suffers in this novel? Why? Is it just or unjust?

    Chew on This

    There Is No Dog suggests that suffering is a necessary and beautiful part of human life.

    In the world of There Is No Dog, it is impossible to end suffering. Suffering is just something for humans to accept.

  • Mortality

    Guess what: we don't actually have eternity to play Angry Birds. Right? It's pretty shocking. Luckily, we don't have to think about our mortality too often. Unless a big disaster strikes or someone close to us is sick, we can usually go about our lives without worrying about that kind of big-picture stuff, and it's a good thing, too. (We think.) But the characters in There Is No Dog are obsessed with these questions. Since this is a novel about God it even gets to ask questions like why is mortality a thing in the first place? Isn't a God that would do that cruel? The answer? Yes and no.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. Do you agree with Bob that mortality is more beautiful than immortality? Why or why not?
    2. How does mortality affect humans' ideas of "forever" in this novel? How does it affect immortals' ideas of it?
    3. Why do you think Rosoff didn't include the idea of an afterlife in this novel? How would heaven or hell have changed the novel?

    Chew on This

    In There Is No Dog, life is beautiful because it is brief.

    Mortality is a curse. Given the choice, anyone would choose to be immortal rather than mortal.

  • Friendship

    Friends. They got your back. You got their back. You sometimes even hang out with them in person instead of writing on their Facebook wall. It's just a big pot of platonic love. In There Is No Dog, friendship is even stronger than mortality. (Kind of.) It stretches across galaxies, proving just as powerful as romantic love. The only thing is, it's mostly missing from the novel because, well, most of the characters are too self-centered to care about anyone else.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. Who are friends in the novel? How do they become friends?
    2. What is the difference between friendship and romantic love in There Is No Dog? How are the two things similar?
    3. It seems like there are few friendships in the novel. Is this true? Why do you think this is, or why not?

    Chew on This

    Friendship is bigger than romantic live in this novel.

    Estelle and Eck form the only true friendship in There Is No Dog.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Every time Apple gets ready to announce the new iPhone, we remember why people are filled with hope for the future. But when we look outside our bubble—at famine, war, ethnic cleansing, drought, floods, you name it—things stop looking so hot. In There Is No Dog, Earth teeters on the edge of hope and hopelessness. Throughout the novel, the characters struggle with finding hope in a world that seems hopelessly damaged by a terrible God. In the end, somehow, they manage to find a little bit of hope in all the muck—and it's not even branded by Apple.

    Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    1. There are a few scenes in the novel that inspire hope in the characters. What are they? Why do they make them hopeful?
    2. There Is No Dog is full of hopes, dreams, and plans. Who are the biggest dreamers? Which hopes come true? Which ones don't?
    3. For most of the novel Earth is described as a hopeless place. What qualities make this true? Which qualities make this false?

    Chew on This

    In There Is No Dog, Earth and its inhabitants are hopeless. There is no point to all the suffering, and Rosoff suggests humans would be better off just giving up.

    Even though life is difficult and God is capricious, humans in There Is No Dog never give up hope.