Summary and Analysis: The October Country
Ever since Martin was confined to his home as the result of an illness, his only connection with the outside world has been his pet, whom he calls Dog. Dog is Martin's emissary, reporting the changes in the weather and the seasons by the way his fur feels and smells, and by the bits of nature that cling to him. Dog not only faithfully fetches news from outside, but he brings visitors to Martin's bedside. Martin's favorite visitor is his teacher, Miss Haight. She is his friend and gives him books and cupcakes and loses to him in games of dominoes and checkers. When he learns of Miss Haight's death, Martin begins a thoughtful consideration of death. He concludes that being dead must be quite dull since all that dead people do is lie around. In the last days of October, Dog begins to act strangely and, on Halloween, disappears. However, Dog does return, bringing with him the rancid smelling soil of the cemetery. As usual, Dog has also brought Martin a visitor. He has provided Miss Haight with a brief outing.
Once, when Bradbury was a boy, he showed extreme despair after a particularly exciting Halloween party because he feared he might die before another Halloween came. His brother told him not to worry about missing Halloween because if he died, he would then be Halloween. "The Emissary" blends both Halloween and death, as this tale of death occurs on and around the holiday that has always been Bradbury's favorite. The shock ending in which Dog provides Miss Haight with a respite from the grave is made even more horrible because it is implied rather than stated. This permits the reader to participate in the sort of fantasy that Bradbury believes is a necessity if one is to survive final reality.