Tarzan of the Apes
Author:Edgar Rice Burroughs
Length: 432 pages
(My) Rating: PG
|Link to Book|
With that in mind, I'm trying to give a fair review of this book, but I may have a hard time not being biased.
If you've only watched Tarzan movies or read funny comics where Tarzan generally speaks like this:
"Me, Tarzan. You, Jane."then this book will not be anything like you're expecting. Once Tarzan learns to speak, he is quite fluent, and intelligent.
Tarzan is about a baby whose parents perish in the jungle, and he is found and nurtured by a great ape. (This is actually a more humanoid version of apes, than even gorillas. He is raised among them, and incidentally develops an incredible musculature and superhuman senses. He uses his superior intellect to survive and becomes the leader of his tribe.
Contrary to the old movies, Tarzan is incredibly smart. He teaches himself to read English, though he is unable to speak it since he's never heard it before. As Tarzan reaches adulthood, a group of white people are marooned upon the shore near the same place where his parents were abandoned. He falls in love with a girl named Jane, and ends up saving every member of the party.
Really, you have to read both the first book and the second book to finish the plot, but we'll just review the first book for now.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is very good at writing action. The story flows along at a swift pace, and it was always very easy for me to see what was happening. I found Tarzan's journey from savagery to civilization to be fairly believable and enjoyable.
Tarzan himself is a bit savage at first (understandably so), but Burroughs likes to focus on the fact that inner gentility can overcome learned savagery. Tarzan does some pretty horrifying things occasionally, but in light of his upbringing, he acts pretty admirably. The animals are fairly realistic, and its fun to see Burroughs' views of Africa.
The book has an occasional racist-slur to it, which was fairly standard for the time period that it was written in, but I would argue that Burroughs actually was not racist himself. As much as cannibals are described in awful terms, he is also very sympathetic with the plights of the Africans and their mistreatment from their white employers. More often than not, the whites are portrayed as more savage then the supposed "savages." His greatest injustice is to the servant of Jane, who is described as a large black woman with a very southern accent. Sometimes it is difficult to understand her, and she is a bit pathetic.
In some newer versions of the book, they have modernized her language so that she doesn't sound so base.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about that, not because of the correction of racism, but of the changing of someone else's writing. However, this isn't really the time for that conversation.
I love every book in this series, though some of the later ones get a bit repetitive. Tarzan is portrayed as a truly noble figure, while Jane is portrayed as intelligent, brave, and fairly independent.
I highly recommend this book. It is a quick and interesting read, and full of excitement. There is something appealing about taking humanity to its maximum. It is fun to see what Burroughs ideas are of the basically perfect human form and the abilities that we would develop if we were forced to survive in the jungle.
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There is some language in this book, but very mild. There is quite a bit of violence. Tarzan often kills and eats his food raw. There is talk of cannibalism and torture that goes along with that, but very little is described.
As far as sexual content, nothing happens. Tarzan is naked in his youth, and for nearly the rest of the book he swings around in a loin cloth. No intimacy occurs.