Tarzan of the Apes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tarzan of the Apes
Tarzan of the Apes in color.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of Tarzan of the Apes.
AuthorEdgar Rice Burroughs
IllustratorFred J Arting
Cover artistFred J Arting
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesTarzan series
GenreAdventure
PublisherA. C. McClurg
Publication date
1912
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages400
OCLC1224185
Followed byThe Return of Tarzan 

Tarzan of the Apes is a novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first in a series of books about the title character Tarzan. It was first published in the pulp magazine The All-Story in October 1912.[1] The story follows Tarzan's adventures, from his childhood being raised by apes in the jungle, to his eventual encounters with other humans and Western society. The character was so popular that Burroughs continued the series into the 1940s with two dozen sequels.[2] For the novel's centennial anniversary, Library of America published a hardcover edition based on the original book with an introduction by Thomas Mallon in April 2012 (ISBN 978-1-59853-164-0). Scholars have noted several important themes in the novel: the impact of heredity on behavior; racial superiority; civilization, especially as Tarzan struggles with his identity as a human; sexuality; and escapism.

Plot summary[edit]

John and Alice (Rutherford) Clayton, Earl and Countess of Greystoke from England, are marooned in the western coastal jungles of equatorial Africa in 1888. Some time later, their son John Clayton II [3] is born. When he is one year old his mother dies, and soon thereafter his father is killed by the savage king ape Kerchak. The infant is then adopted by the she-ape Kala.

Clayton is named "Tarzan" ("White Skin" in the ape language) and raised in ignorance of his human heritage.

As a boy, feeling alienated from his peers due to their physical differences, he discovers his true parents' cabin, where he first learns of others like himself in their books. Using basic primers with pictures, over many years he teaches himself to read English, but having never heard it, cannot speak it.

Upon his return from one visit to the cabin, he is attacked by a huge gorilla which he manages to kill with his father's knife, although he is terribly wounded in the struggle. As he grows up, Tarzan becomes a skilled hunter, exciting the jealousy of Kerchak, the ape leader, who finally attacks him. Tarzan kills Kerchak and takes his place as "king" of the apes.

Later, a tribe of black Africans settle in the area, and Tarzan's adopted mother, Kala, is killed by one of its hunters. Avenging himself on the killer, Tarzan begins an antagonistic relationship with the tribe, raiding its village for weapons and practicing cruel pranks on them. They, in turn, regard him as an evil spirit and attempt to placate him.

A few years later when Tarzan is 21 years of age, a new party is marooned on the coast, including 19 year old Jane Porter, the first white woman Tarzan has ever seen. Tarzan's cousin, William Cecil Clayton, unwitting usurper of the ape man's ancestral English estate, is also among the party. Tarzan spies on the newcomers, aids them in secret, and saves Jane from the perils of the jungle.

Among the party was French naval officer Paul D'Arnot. While rescuing D'Arnot from the natives, a rescue ship recovers the castaways. D'Arnot teaches Tarzan to speak French and offers to take Tarzan to the land of white men where he might connect with Jane again. On their journey, D'Arnot teaches him how to behave among white men. In the ensuing months, Tarzan eventually learns to speak English, as well.

Ultimately, Tarzan travels to find Jane in Wisconsin, USA where he rescues her from a fire. Tarzan learns the bitter news that she has become engaged to William Clayton. Meanwhile, clues from his parents' cabin have enabled D'Arnot to prove Tarzan's true identity as John Clayton II, the Earl of Greystoke. Instead of reclaiming his inheritance from William, Tarzan chooses rather to conceal and renounce his heritage for the sake of Jane's happiness.[4]

Characters in order of appearance[edit]

  • John Clayton, Earl of Greystoke
  • Alice Clayton (Rutherford), Countess of Greystoke
  • Captain Billings
  • Black Michael
  • Kerchak
  • Kala
  • Tarzan
  • Tantor
  • Tublat
  • Neeta
  • Sabor
  • Bolgani
  • Numa
  • Sheeta
  • Horta
  • Pisah
  • Kulonga
  • Mbonga
  • Bara
  • Arn
  • Dango
  • Manu
  • Terkoz
  • Thaka
  • Mungo
  • Tana
  • Gunto
  • Mirando
  • Munango-Keewati
  • Pamba
  • Professor Archimedes Q. Porter
  • Jane Porter
  • Samuel T. Philander
  • William Cecil Clayton
  • Esmeralda
  • Snipes
  • Porky Evans
  • Jane Porter, Sr. (mention)
  • King
  • Peter
  • Tom
  • Bill
  • Tarrant
  • Hazel Strong
  • Robert Canler
  • Lieutenant Paul D’Arnot
  • Lieutenant Charpentier
  • Captain Dufranne
  • Father Constantine

Background[edit]

Burroughs drifted across the United States until he was thirty-six, holding seventeen consecutive careers before he published stories.[5] He worked as a U.S. cavalryman, a gold miner in Oregon, a cowboy in Idaho, a railroad policeman in Salt Lake City, and an owner of several failed businesses.[6] He decided to write his own pulp fiction after being disappointed by the reading material others offered, and worked in that capacity for four years before his first novel, Tarzan of the Apes, was published.[6][7] Tarzan first appeared in The All-Story in October 1912. The All-Story published it in its entirety in installments, and it was published in 1914 as a novel.[8]

Though The Jungle Book is sometimes cited as an influence on Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, he claimed that his only inspiration was the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus.[7] Rudyard Kipling commented that Burroughs "had 'jazzed' the motif of the Jungle Books and, I imagine, thoroughly enjoyed himself."[9]

Major themes[edit]

Recent literary criticism often focuses on the identity of the eponymous protagonist of Tarzan of the Apes. Literary scholars, such as Jeff Berglund, Mikko Tuhkanen, J. Michelle Coughlan, Bijana Oklopčić, and Catherine Jurca have examined the overlapping themes of Tarzan's heredity, race, civilized behavior, sexuality, and escapist appeal. Writers in popular culture, such as Gore Vidal, often emphasize Tarzan's escapist appeal.

Heredity[edit]

Burroughs himself acknowledged the centrality of the theme of heredity in the novel, and its conflict with the environment. According to his biographer, John Taliaferro, he claimed in a Writer’s Digest, “I was mainly interested in playing with the idea of a contest between heredity and environment. For this purpose I selected an infant child of a race strongly marked by hereditary characteristics of the finer and nobler sort, and at an age at which he could not have been influenced by association with creatures of his own kind I threw him into an environment as diametrically opposite that to which he had been born as I might well conceive”.[10]

The scholar Jeff Burglund notices that although Tarzan was brought up in the jungle far from other humans, he is inexplicably drawn back to his parents’ cabin and the objects which he finds there.[11] He discovers a capacity for gentlemanly behavior around Jane despite no one teaching it to him.[11] Although the African tribes which he fights practice cannibalism, and he himself eats ape corpses, he suddenly feels revulsion when he considers eating one of the African men he kills. When he refuses to eat the African, Burroughs portrays "hereditary instinct” as the reason.[12] Tarzan's genetic association with upper-class, Western civilization conditions his actions more than his violent environment,[13] and Berglund claims that Tarzan could represent the stereotypical "scion of English stock" in colonialized countries.[14] His racial superiority manifests itself through his behavior because it correlates with the ideals of Western civilization, whether he treats a woman politely or cannot force himself to eat an African man.[14]

Racism[edit]

Biljana Oklopčić emphasizes the portrayal of race in Tarzan of the Apes. She claims that Tarzan represents white, male opposition to the “black rapist” stereotype which was prevalent in the Southern U.S. at the time of its publication because the language which describes apes parallels propaganda against people of African descent.[15]

Catherine Jurca similarly analyzes Tarzan as opposed to tolerating the presence of people of other races and classes in favor of preserving his own culture. The way that Tarzan defends his corner of civilization, his parents’ home, from the "savages" who want to destroy it, reflects an early twentieth-century American attitude; as darker-skinned immigrants flooded the country, especially urban areas, white Americans feared that their culture would be destroyed by newcomers who did not understand or care about it, and tried to protect the suburbs in the same way that Tarzan tries to protect his home.[16]

Though Burroughs’ admirers have tried to downplay claims of racism, or to explain that it was a common stereotype at the time the book was written, John Newsinger examines the extent to which Burroughs unfavorably described black characters. He wrote that Tarzan is the story of the “whiteman’s conquest of African savagery”, where the native Africans are portrayed as brutes whom Tarzan enjoys taunting and killing.[17]

Civilization[edit]

Tarzan's jungle upbringing and eventual exposure to Western civilization form another common theme in literary criticism of the novel. Berglund notes that Tarzan's ability to read and write sets him apart from the apes, the African villagers, and the lower-class sailors in the novel, and culminates in Tarzan recognizing himself as a human for the first time; moreover, he sees himself as a man who is superior to others unlike himself. Jeff Berglund argues that this realization exemplifies Burroughs' portrayal of whiteness and literacy as fundamental to civilization through implying that Tarzan's growth into a perfectly civilized person stems from his Western, white heritage and ability to read and write.[18]

However, Mikko Tuhkanen claims that the apparently civilized qualities of Tarzan, such as his interest in reading, threaten his survival as a human in the jungle. For Tuhkanen, Tarzan represents the fluidity with which humans should define themselves. He asserts, “[T]he human and the nonhuman become grotesquely indistinguishable” in the novel.[19] Humans mistake apes for other humans,[20] an ape tries to rape Jane,[21] Tarzan finds a surrogate ape mother when he cries out like an ape,[20] and he must act against his human instincts by jumping into a dangerous body of water in order to survive an attack from a lion.[22] Because simian and human behavior blend, and because civilized habits seem to threaten human survival, Tuhkanen claims that humans must contradict the expectations of civilization regarding the characteristics of humans.[23] For Tuhkanen, the novel exemplifies “queer ethics,” encouraging “perverse sexuality” along with other behaviors which Western civilization often discouraged.[24]

Sexuality[edit]

J. Michelle Coughlan argues that Tarzan displays behavior which seems outside of the bounds of traditional manhood in her article “’Absolutely Punk: Queer Economies of Desire in Tarzan of the Apes.” Coughlan analyzes Burroughs’ fans complaints regarding the “punk ending” in order to prove that contemporary readers understood Tarzan's renunciation of Jane as unmanly.[25] He rescues Paul D’Arnot from Africans, similarly to how he rescues Jane from rape: many of the same phrases and words describe both adventures [26] D’Arnot later supports the reluctant Tarzan financially, similarly to the monetary motivation for marriage which Jane feels.[27] Coughlan suggests that the novel bends traditional Western gender roles; therefore, Tarzan unconsciously could feel homosexual desire for D’Arnot despite his apparent attraction for Jane, and D’Arnot could be treating Tarzan as a “kept m[a]n,” or paid sexual partner.[28]

Escapism[edit]

Most of the stories that Burroughs wrote were stories that he told himself.[6] According to Gore Vidal, when Burroughs was unsatisfied with reality, “he consoled himself with an inner world where he was strong and handsome, adored by beautiful women and worshipped by exotic races”.[6] The story served for the most part as a form of masculine escape that inspired men and boys.[7] The adventurous character of Tarzan also appealed to wider American audiences over decades as a powerful means of escaping the sense of boredom and frustration which accompanies a confining society,[29] and to the twentieth-century American desire to reconquer a home that seemed lost.[16] "In the eyes of contemporary man, huddled in large cities and frustrated by a restrictive civilization, Tarzan was a joyous symbol of primitivism, an affirmation of life, endowing the reader with a Promethean sense of power".[7]

Adaptations[edit]

Film adaptations[edit]

Burroughs' novel has been the basis of several films. The first two were the silent films Tarzan of the Apes (1918) and The Romance of Tarzan (1918), both starring Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan, based on the first and second parts of the novel, respectively. The next and most famous adaptation was Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), starring Johnny Weissmuller, who went on to star in 11 other Tarzan films. Lincoln was replaced by Weissmuller in real life as Clayton by Harry Holt in the films. It was remade twice, as Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959), featuring Denny Miller, and Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), with Miles O'Keeffe as Tarzan and Bo Derek as Jane.

Four more movie adaptations have been made to date: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), a film starring Christopher Lambert that is more faithful to the book; Tarzan of the Apes (1999), a direct-to-video animated film; Tarzan (1999), a Disney animated film with Tony Goldwyn as the voice of Tarzan; and The Legend of Tarzan (2016), a more historically contextualized update starring Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, as well as Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, portraying actual figures in the Congo at that time, the brutal Belgian Captain Léon Rom and American Civil War soldier George Washington Williams, respectively.

A number of Burroughs' other Tarzan novels have also been adapted for the screen. Numerous Tarzan films have been made with no connection to his writings other than the character.

Comic adaptations[edit]

The book has been adapted into comic form on a number of occasions, both in the original Tarzan comic strip and comic books. The strip itself began with Hal Foster's adaptation of the story. Notable adaptations into comic book form include those of Gold Key Comics in Tarzan no. 155 (script by Gaylord DuBois, art by Russ Manning), dated September 1966 (reprinted in no. 178, dated October 1969), DC Comics in Tarzan nos. 207-210, dated April–July 1972, and Marvel in Tarzan Super Special no. 1 (reprinted in Tarzan of the Apes nos. 1-2, dated July–August 1984). Probably the most prestigious comic version, however, was illustrator and former Tarzan comic strip artist Burne Hogarth's 1972 adaptation of the first half of the book into his showcase graphic novel Tarzan of the Apes. (Hogarth subsequently followed up with another graphic novel Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1976), which adapted four stories from Burroughs' identically titled collection of Tarzan stories). Dynamite Entertainment adapted the story for the first six issues of Lord of the Jungle, albeit loosely; for example, the cannibal tribe was replaced by a village of literal apemen.

Radio adaptations[edit]

See main article, Tarzan (radio program).

Three old-time radio series were based on the Tarzan character. Burroughs himself revised each script in the 1932-1934 series as needed for accuracy.[30] That series had Burroughs' daughter, Joan, in the role of Jane.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Taliaferro, John (1999). Tarzan Forever. New York, NY: Scribner. pp. 75, 78.
  2. ^ Lupoff, Richard A. (2005). Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 263–265.
  3. ^ Tarzan of the Apes, Chapter XXV, where the following line (a diary entry by John Clayton, Tarzan's father) appears: "Somehow, even against all reason, I seem to see him a grown man, taking his father's place in the world—the second John Clayton—and bringing added honors to the house of Greystoke."
  4. ^ Lupoff, Richard A. (2015-08-27). Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. Orion. ISBN 9781473208711.
  5. ^ Fenton, Robert W. (1967). The Big Swingers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. pp. 43–44.
  6. ^ a b c d Vidal, Gore (2008). The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal. New York: Doubleday. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-385-52484-1.
  7. ^ a b c d Hart, James David (1950). The Popular Book: A History of America's Literary Taste. University of California Press. p. 219. ISBN 9780520005389.
  8. ^ Taliaferro, John (1999). Tarzan Forever. New York, NY: Scribner. pp. 75, 78.
  9. ^ Kipling, Rudyard (1937). Something of Myself. London: Macmillan & Co.
  10. ^ Taliaferro, John (1999). Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan. New York: Scribner. p. 14. ISBN 0-684-83359-X.
  11. ^ a b Berglund, Jeff (1999). "Write, Right, White, Rite: Literacy, Imperialism, Race, and Cannibalism in Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes". Studies in American Literature. 27 (1): 63 – via Project MUSE.
  12. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice (1914). Tarzan of the Apes. p. 60.
  13. ^ Berglund, Jeff (1999). "Write, Right, White, Rite: Literacy, Imperialism, Race, and Cannibalism in Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes". Studies in American Literature. 27 (1): 58, 64 – via Project MUSE.
  14. ^ a b Berglund, Jeff (1999). "Write, Right, White, Rite: Literacy, Imperialism, Race, and Cannibalism in Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes". Studies in American Literature. 27 (1): 75 – via Project MUSE.
  15. ^ Oklopčić, Biljana. "Adapting the Adapted: Adapting the Adapted: The Black Rapist Myth in E.R. Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes and Its Film Adaptations". Anafora. 4: 318, 321.
  16. ^ a b Jurca, Catherine (1996). "Tarzan, Lord of the Suburbs". Modern Language Quarterly. 57 (3): 483.
  17. ^ Newsinger, John (October 1, 1986). "Lord Greystoke and Darkest Africa: the politics of the Tarzan stories". Race and Class. XXVIII: 61–64. doi:10.1177/030639688602800204 – via SAGE Journals.
  18. ^ Berglund, Jeff. "Write, Right, White, Rite: Literacy, Imperialism, Race, and Cannibalism in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes". Studies in American Fiction. 27 (1): 58.
  19. ^ Tukhanen, Mikko. "Grotesquely Becoming: Tarzan's Queer Hominization". Diacritics. 44: 32.
  20. ^ a b Tuhkanen, Mikko. "Grotesquely Becoming: Tarzan's Queer Hominization". Diacritics. 44: 35.
  21. ^ Tuhkanen, Mikko. "Grotesquely Becoming: Tarzan's Queer Hominization". Diacritics. 44: 37.
  22. ^ Tuhkanen, Mikko. "Grotesquely Becoming: Tarzan's Queer Hominization". Diacritics. 44: 38.
  23. ^ Tuhkanen, Mikko. "Grotesquely Becoming: Tarzan's Queer Hominization". Diacritics. 44: 43.
  24. ^ Tuhkanen, Mikko. "Grotesquely Becoming: Tarzan's Queer Hominization". Diacritics. 44: 48, 33.
  25. ^ Coughlan, J. Michelle (2012). "Absolutely Punk: Queer Economies of Desire in Tarzan of the Apes". In Churchwell, Sarah. Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers: From Charlotte Temple to The DaVinci Code. London, England: Continuum. p. 187. ISBN 978-1441162168.
  26. ^ Coughlan, J. Michelle (2012). "Absolutely Punk: Queer Economies of Desire in Tarzan of the Apes". Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers: From Charlotte Temple to The DaVinci Code. London, England: Continuum. pp. 185–6.
  27. ^ Coughlan, J. Michelle (2012). "Absolutely Punk: Queer Economies of Desire in Tarzan of the Apes". In Churchwell, Sarah. Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers: From Charlotte Temple to The DaVinci Code. London, England: Continuum. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-1441162168.
  28. ^ Coughlan, J. Michelle (2012). "Absolutely Punk: Queer Economies of Desire in Tarzan of the Apes". In Churchwell, Sarah. Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers: From Charlotte Temple to The DaVinci Code. London, England: Continuum. p. 186. ISBN 978-1441162168.
  29. ^ Vidal, Gore (2008). The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal (First ed.). New York: Doubleday. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-385-52484-1.
  30. ^ Stebbins, Barton A. (January 15, 1933). ""Tarzan": A Modern Radio Success Story" (PDF). Broadcasting. p. 7. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  31. ^ ""Tarzan" Series Tests Produce 93,000 Letters In First Eight Weeks" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 15, 1932. p. 13. Retrieved 9 September 2016.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
none
Tarzan series
Tarzan of the Apes
Succeeded by
The Return of Tarzan