Dogsong Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Dogsong.
This section contains 460 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Dogsong Summary & Study Guide Description

Dogsong Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Dogsong by Gary Paulsen.

Dogsong by Gary Paulsen is the tale of a teenager who finds himself at an important crossroads in his life. Russel Susskit is a fourteen-year-old Eskimo boy who lives with his father. Their summers are spent in a fish-camp, and every winter they move into the village and live in a tiny government-owned house. Russel's father, once a heavy drinker, found religion some years ago after Russel's mother abandoned them and ran off with a white man. Russel does not understand his father's enthusiasm for Jesus, but the boy knows that Jesus helped his father stop drinking and so he accepts it for what it is. Russel's father loves him but he cannot answer Russel's questions about life and living. Nor can Russel's father fully comprehend the boy's restlessness and dissatisfaction.

The cold, forbidding winter days are short and the nights are long in the small village on the tundra. Each morning, Russel is awakened by the sound of his father's coughing and the smell of diesel fuel. For Russel Susskit and the other Eskimos in this out-of-the-way village, every day is the same. Russel is suspicious and distrustful of things and people who come from Outside. The tobacco his father rolls into homemade cigarettes comes from Outside, as do the pictures of Jesus that decorate the walls of his home. Outside represents the white man and the white man's ways. When Russel tries to talk to his father and explain the feelings he is having, his father admits not knowing how to help his son and sends Russel to visit a village elder by the name of Oogruk. Oogruk knows the Old Ways — how the Eskimos lived before the white men came to the far north. Oogruk is a kind of shaman, or holy man. Oogruk is revered in the village as a wise, albeit eccentric, old man with important stories to tell and mysterious songs to sing. Russel is drawn to Oogruk and calls him "Grandfather" out of respect. Russel does not realize that his life and Oogruk's life are intertwined.

Russel's time with Oogruk begins innocently enough. The two talk about the Old Ways and how their people have changed since the songs disappeared. One afternoon when Russel comes out of a trance, his entire perspective changes and Russel embarks on a challenging physical and emotional journey to re-connect with the Old Ways and himself. Russel learns that he is his own song, that the Old Ways are still his ways. With the help and companionship of Oogruk's team of sled dogs, Russel Susskit finally sees the world through the eyes of his geographical and cultural ancestors. Dogsong is about awakening and creating meaning and purpose in life where none existed before.

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This section contains 460 words
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