“The Red Bow”

This week’s published piece is “The Red Bow” by George Saunders, a New York Times bestselling American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and GQ, among others. A professor at Syracuse University, Saunders won the National Magazine Award for fiction in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2004, and second prize in the O. Henry Awards in 1997.

In this story, a grief-stricken father, whose little girl is killed by a pack of rabid dogs, joins a campaign to to kill every dog, cat, mouse, bird, and fish that could possibly be infected in their town. Caught in his grief and confusion, the campaign spirals out of his control when lazy unemployed Uncle Matt steps up to the podium and manipulates the town into a fervor of paranoia and overwhelming righteousness.

  • How does Saunders use sentence structure to illustrate the narrator’s emotions?
  • What does the red bow symbolize? And how does Uncle Matt distort its meaning?
  • How does Saunders build tension throughout the story to reach this verdict: “Kill every dog, every cat, she said very slowly. Kill every mouse, every bird. Kill every fish. Anyone objects, kill them too.”
  • How is a single tragedy (the death of the little girl) used to manipulate the public into extreme action?

Hope you enjoy the story!


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