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Book Review: Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan of the Apes is a worldwide popular novel for its unique story. Though the book is quite racist in its semblance, but it is the overall story of a white boy being raised by apes, makes all the difference. The book was written (around 1910) when colonization was a trend and writers, especially from Europe and America, cared least to unhurt the feelings of native black African people. They generally associated them with slavery, wilderness, uncivilized and so on. They never deemed them up to a standard of being human. Let’s see what’s in the story of this extremely popular book.


The white couple John and Alice Clayton is travelling to Africa on a ship. However, the ship sees a mutiny, thus for their safety they are deported somewhere on the African coastal strip. The couple is at a strange place and very much on the edge of dark jungle. They are stuck undoubtedly. Soon, John manages to build a wooden cabin and start living in fear. In a year’s time they are bestowed with a baby boy. When their baby is around one year old, the hostile ape leader Kerchek murders the man and the woman Alice dies due to illness. Well, in time, she-ape Kala takes the baby boy as a substitute for her dead infant.

The ape community names the boy as Tarzan, meaning white skin. Because of his intelligence and her protection, Tarzan not only learns the brutal rules of jungle but also thrives ahead, to an extent that one day he kills his most fierce rival Kerchek – the leader of the ape community.

Apart from his daily hunting expeditions, Tarzan also loves to explore the inner depths of the African jungle. On one occasion, he discovers strange things from a wooden cabin, which once was his birth and dwelling place. Through cabin’s material, he tries to understand human figures, as there were books which ignited his mind to think that apart from jungle and animals there also exist different types of humans. This discovery was inevitable as he being from white parents has different and sharp mind than his community members.

On the same coastal strip some naïve and defenseless white men arrive, probably in the search of a treasure. Among them is Jane Porter, a young beautiful girl from Baltimore, Maryland. This is the first instance when Tarzan sees humans and also saves them from the untoward things of the jungle. During one romantic confrontation when Jane stays with Tarzan in the depths of the jungle for few days – they fall in love with each other. That’s the turning point for Tarzan’s destiny.

In between Tarzan’s ape mother is being killed by the black natives of the jungle. To avenge her death, he tactfully kills the natives by stealing their arrows only to use on them. He kills them with so precision and secretly that they take him as an evil shadow and they fear him the most.

When the group of the white men goes back to the USA, Tarzan feels a deep need for Jane. In order to follow her, he sets out on a journey with a French naval officer, Paul D’Arnot, whom he saved from the black natives of the jungle.

Upon reaching the USA, Tarzan finds Jane caught in a forest fire, and then he saves her life once again. This incident and Tarzan’s bravery nudge her to break her engagement from the person who runs away when she was caught in the fire. However, in the end, Jane refuses Tarzan’s marriage proposal just for the sake of social status, and she marries Tarzan’s cousin, who now inherits all the wealth of Clayton. Tarzan goes back silently renouncing his identity and share in the wealth.

In 1912, ‘Tarzan’ titled stories was published in a magazine in a series. However, it came as a whole book in 1914. Tarzan of the Apes is more or less based on differences in the civilizations that have been existing since ages.

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