Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
2006 Barnes and Noble Classics
Photo from Goodreads.com
So this is Tarzan! I haven’t actually seen the Disney Tarzan or George of the Jungle, so I can’t tell you how accurate it is. In fact, I don’t even know if Jane and Tarzan end up in the movie or not (I do in the book though, now!!). The story is basically the same though (from what I know): Boy grows up in a jungle!
That’s what the book is pretty much about, Tarzan being raised by apes and slowly learning to be a human. I really liked reading this because I could mark Tarzan’s learning to be a man process. “Tarzan learned the use of his thumbs!” “Tarzan figured out how to use a door!” A lot of my enjoyment of the book came from his development.
Other joys came from how surprisingly sad this story becomes. The ending is a little heartbreaking, but I liked it because Tarzan didn’t have everything he wants in the end. One of my qualms is how Tarzan pretty much becomes PERFECT. He’s got the looks, the ability to kill a lion, money, the smarts, “high class blood”… the list goes on! And alright, he doesn’t have too many people in this world, but he has that ability to create his own family. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on him. But anyway, the point is there IS some balance.
What’s kind of neat is you can totally tell this book is written in the early 1900s. Tarzan’s jungle is set in Africa, and Edgar’s own ignorance of the African people shows through. Pretty much the black Africans are viewed as an entirely different race of people– barbaric and foolish as opposed to whites. That part is not neat. What is neat is how this book adds to history– it’s a testament to some of the streams of thinking in early 1900s. While it by no means sums up that entire time period, it does add a little paint to the picture. Also, the whole idea of being born with a higher class blood was prominent in this book, which is a concept that is not considered main stream today (at least as far as I know!). Tarzan was able to be so great because he was a higher make of human due to his bloodline.
While there were quite a few ideas that made me go “seriously?” (see above) there were a few other things that I liked and got me thinking. Like the differences between what separates man and “animal”. Edgar Rice Burroughs says it’s reason, and there are quite a few examples he gives.
Also, how much of who you are is due to your environment or your genetic make up? And a big one, what’s the difference between killing and murder?
There was one passage that I first marked because I like the last half of the last line, but it kind of shows you a little bit of the type of person Tarzan is and a little bit of that idea between killing versus murder. Here it is:
“The face above [Jane] was one of extraordinary beauty. A perfect type of the strongly masculine, unmarred by dissipation, or brutal or degrading passions. For, though Tarzan of the Apes was a killer of men and of beasts, he killed as the hunter kills, dispassionately, except on those rare occasions when he had killed for hate–though not the brooding, malevolent hate which marks the features of its own with hideous lines. When Tarzan killed he more often smiled than scowled, and smiles are the foundation of beauty.” (168)
Isn’t that neat? Smiles are the foundation of beauty! Woohoo
So anyway, this marks the third book I’ve read for the Off the Shelf challenge! (You can see my posting about the challenge HERE). I’m super glad that I’m finally reading these books I own and especially a lot of the older literature I have. It’s nice to be pushing myself to be reading things that challenge me.
Some business: I’ll be in TEXAS for a week with my sister, so I’m not sure yet what this will mean for this website this coming week (I’m not even sure if I’m bringing my computer yet). Maybe I’ll just have to turn this into a Texas travel blog for the week :-) Or maybe I’ll be taking a little break. Either way! Read great things!