The Baddest Dog in Harlem is a novel written by the American writer Walter Dean Myers. Walter was an American writer of children’s books best known for young adult literature. It is part of the collection ‘145th Street: Short Stories’, published in 2001.
The setting of the story is in Harlem. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Harlem is a large neighbourhood within the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. The story takes place on 145th street, outside Big Joe’s place. We are confronted with some men discussing who the best boxer is. They all seem to have time enough, when the police officer asks them for how long they’ve been sitting there.
Harlem is an environment where a lot of crime is going on. People are used to crime and drugs around here. Generally the author of the text, makes Harlem seem like a place with high unemployment and not a very nice place to be.
The language used in the novel is English, with a lot of slang. This makes us aware that we are in Harlem, and it would be very unsual if they talked formal English with some formal terms. There are many examples of this throughout the text, one of them is: ‘What you young people talking about’?, which is clearly grammatically incorrect, but on purpose since this gives the right atmosphere. The slang is only used when they talk, but when we read what the narrator thinks, it’s written in grammatically correct, formal and understandable English.
In the novel, we are confronted with some characters, even though we don’t get much information about them. We have Mary, who is the owner of the apartment that the police opened fire at. She seems to have an aggressive behaviour, which is understandable since it’s a violent situation and she’s quite upset and shocked. ‘You shot up my new drapes! I don’t work all day for you fools to be up here shooting up my drapes!’ is a line from the text. We also have the narrator, which is black, and we also have Wille, Pedro and Mr. Lynch. We don’t get much information, but that is very typical for the genre.
The themes in the text are ‘guns’ and ‘racism’. Guns because the police is shooting and end up killing an innocent child. This text brings up the discussion whether guns should be allowed or not. If guns weren’t allowed, the policemen wouldn’t have any reason to suspect that he had an automatic weapon. This is a huge mistake from the policemen, since they didn’t have anything on him than the report of a man with an automatic weapon. I also think the theme is racism, because the policemen searches Willie to look for anything illegal, even though they had absolutely no reason to believe he had that.
You can draw perspective to the song ‘American Skin (41 shots)’ by Bruce Springsteen, because the events