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The Doggie Bath that Helped to Talk About and Cope with Cancer Interruptions, Solution and Final Thoughts

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0


The interruption section is the following:

13 D:            He's a little larger than [(   ).

14 S:                                                  [He’s a li:ttle larger (.) a:nd=    

15 D:            =We're up to bathtub size [(     ).

16 S:                                                       [>We’re- we're< ↑up to bathtub size.=But

17         even that (.) is ve:ry difficult, particularly if there is only one

18        of you.

19 D:            °Mmm°.=

Next the father comments “He’s a little larger than” and gets cut off by the son before he finishes his sentence. The father is referring to the son’s dog Charles as being larger than his own dog Clinger. This could also be symbolic for the son having stronger feelings about the mother’s cancer than the father has.

The father and son then go on to play a repeat game. The father says something and then the son repeats it. This could be because the father is interrupting the son’s story and the son repeats his father’s words to show he hears him, but now he wants him to stop. When the son continues on in his story he completely changes the subject from what the father was talking about.  The son changes the subject by saying “But” even though a more appropriate word would be “anyways”.

The son tells his father it “is very difficult, particularly if there is only one of you” in line seventeen on page three. The son is referring to it being very difficult to hold his dog down with one person while giving him a bath. This could really mean the son is having a hard time coping with the mother’s cancer on his own and it is “very difficult” to handle. This utterance could really be a call for help from the son to the father to help him cope with his mother’s cancer.

The father responds in line nineteen on page three with “Mmm”. This could mean he is thinking about what the son just said and he is trying to comprehend it. Or it could possibly mean he is agreeing with the son. The father could be saying “Mmm” to show he sees how it could be difficult to hold him down in the bathtub as well. This could be an agreement that he sees the son needs help coping with his feelings as well.

The solution

The solution section is as follows:

20 S:            =pt .hhh But I have fi::gured it out.

21            (0.6)

22 D:            °Put° the shower on.=

23 S:            =Ye:s.=

24 D:            $Heh heh heh heh heh.$

25 S:            And get in.

26 D:            Oh. Oka:y.


The son then continues to say in line twenty on page three that he has “figured it out”. What he is referring to in this sentence is that he figured out how to effectively give his dog a bath. This may also mean he has figured out how to cope with his feelings about his mother’s cancer even though it is a difficult task to do.

Next there is a fairly long pause. This pause is after the son speaks, so it is the father whom has a delayed reaction to the son’s utterance in the previous sentence. When someone says I have figured it out, they usually continue with their explanation of what they figured out.  So the pause after the son’s utterance does not seem unusual because the father was probably waiting for the son to finish his thought. The father eventually speaks because he most likely gets tired of waiting for the son to finish his thought. The father answers with “Put the shower on” on line twenty-two on page three. This shows the father was aware of where the son was going with his dog story.

The son then confirms the dad was right by saying “Yes” in line twenty-three on page three. The father then laughs at the thought of his son putting the dog in the shower. The son then finishes by saying “And get in” in line twenty-five on page three.  Sack’s (1984) article on “Being Ordinary” talks about story telling and what details people include in their stories are ones that make them ordinary. People do not give details like what color the grass was on their way home from work when they are asked how their day was. Similarly in this dog story excerpt the details that are ordinary are only included as well. The son says in line twenty-five on page three that he gets into the shower with his dog.  He does not explain the positions they are in while they are in the shower because that would be a detail that is considered unordinary.  The son can get his point across by saying the dog and him are in the shower together and that is considered an ordinary detail. There is no need for further explanation.

The son’s utterance of “And get in” could also be symbolic for how he deals with his feelings about his mother’s cancer.  “Get in” means the only way he can deal with his mother’s situation is to face the problem head on. It is not good for him to hold his feelings in, but it is better to submerse himself in the problem, like it is easier to submerse himself with water in the shower to give his dog a bath.

Lastly the father responds with “Oh okay”. This demonstrates that the father did not see the son was going to say he gets in the shower with his dog. This utterance by the father shows he understands now that he gets in the shower too. Also this could mean he understands that the only way the son can cope with his feelings is to face them directly. The father could also be agreeing to help the son cope with his problems by saying “okay”. 

So what? My Final Thoughts

            The analysis of this transcription is fascinating to me because I never thought I would find so much information in such a short conversation. The previous analysis is based on what I heard was happening in the conversation and it is open to interpretation. I believe the father and son were having a conversation about their ways of coping with their mother’s/wife’s cancer by speaking about giving their dogs a bath. There are many instances were it seems the father and son are mutually agreeing they are speaking about cancer while they are sharing stories about washing their dogs.  The son told his story in the order of which the events happened amidst the father commenting or interrupting here and there as a normal story is told in typical story-telling fashion. The son and father took turns being the speaker and the receiver throughout the conversation. The son would speak with reference to the words that were said just prior by the father and those words then trigger the father to say something new and so on.

Future research on this excerpt might consist of a closer analysis on the tone of the speakers voice and other verbal cues. Here I focused mostly on the content of what the speakers were saying and less on how they were saying it. I interpreted their words to mean more then what the obviously conversation was about. My findings can be argued to be non-existent. Future research may also go as far as asking the son and father what they were thinking during this conversation to see if my findings were close to what the son and father were thinking at the time of their dog conversation.

Some questions that are still open for interpretation are: 1) Were the father and son in fact speaking of their mother’s/wife’s cancer through their dog story? 2) Did Clinger represent the father and Charles represent the son and their ways of coping with their feelings towards the cancer situation? 3) Did the dog talk help the son and father cope with the cancer by giving them something to smile and laugh about? 4) What is the significance of the way the father and the son deliver their conversation?


Beach, W. A. (2007). A natural history of family cancer: Interactional resources for managing illness. San Diego: Montezuma Publishing.

Beach, W. A. (2008). Conversation analysis [Electronic version]. The international encyclopedia of communication.

Goodwin, M. H. (1990). Perspectives on stories [Electronic version]. He said she said:  Talk as social organization among black children, 229-238.

Heritage, J. (1984). Conversation analysis [Electronic version]. Garfinkel and ethnomethodology, 233-244.

Heritage, J., & Atkinson, J. (1984). Introduction [Electronic version]. Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis, 1-15.

Jefferson, G. (1978). Sequential aspects of storytelling in conversation [Electronic version]. Studies in organization of conversational interaction, 219-247.

Sacks, H. (1984). Notes on methodology. In John Heritage & J. Maxwell Atkinson  [Electronic version]. Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis, 21-27.

Sacks, H. (1984). On doing being ordinary [Electronic version]. Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis, 413-429.



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