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Tarzan of the Apes

First published in 1914, Edgar Rice Burroughs's romance has lost little of its force over the years--as film revivals and TV series well attest. Tarzan of the Apes is very much a product of its age: replete with bloodthirsty natives and a bulky, swooning American Negress, and haunted by what zoo specialists now call charismatic megafauna (great beasts snarling, roaring, and stalking, most of whom would be out of place in a real African jungle). Burroughs countervails such incorrectness, however, with some rather unattractive representations of white civilization--mutinous, murderous sailors, effete aristos, self-involved academics, and hard-hearted cowards. At Tarzan's heart rightly lies the resourceful and hunky title character, a man increasingly torn between the civil and the savage, for whom cutlery will never be less than a nightmare.

The passages in which the nut-brown boy teaches himself to read and write are masterly and among the book's improbable, imaginative best. How tempting it is to adopt the ten-year-old's term for letters--"little bugs"! And the older Tarzan's realization that civilized "men were indeed more foolish and more cruel than the beasts of the jungle," while not exactly a new notion, is nonetheless potent. The first in Burroughs's serial is most enjoyable in its resounding oddities of word and thought, including the unforgettable "When Tarzan killed he more often smiled than scowled; and smiles are the foundation of beauty."

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Recent Forum Posts on Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes

Dear Readers,
This is a simple romantic tale. It's not to be taken personally. A good yarn right alongside any author from ERB's time. Can't be judged by today's hyper emotional viewpoints.

Tarzan of the Apes

I just listened to this book on tape--the first erb book i ever read or listened to. Of course I've seen the old movies and tv shows re Tarzan, and being almost 50 years old I grew up with those shows. I'm a 'grownup' supposedly.

I was entranced by the book and fascinated. And horribly depressed when it was over. I couldn't bear to think of stupid Jane and poor hurt Tarzan. To me, the realities or unrealities of the story or the viewpoints shown did not detract from the story.

I was soo disappointed with the ending that i had to try not to think about it.

Imagine my relief when I went online and read apparently that there is some relief to be had in the sequel, although I don't know if I can ever forgive Jane for being such a major wimp.

I know this is all very silly comments on my part. But I completely enjoyed this story and will have to read more!

No Subject

I am living here for 10 years now and I am amazed how simple minded some people are. We're talking about Tarzan here and not about the human rights campaign. Don't get me wrong, stereo typing anyone is wrong and should not happen, period! However back then society was a completely different ballgame. If you grow up in a country as a child and it is legitimate to discriminate against a certain type of group you don't know any better. Back then it was not a crime. It's basically like growing up in a 3rd world country. People that grow up there have very little luxury. In other words they don't know what's out there. The fact that they could have as much food as they want at an all you can eat buffet would never occour to them. They are ignorant to the fact. That doesn't make them bad people. One more thing. I was very ignorant about the black vs white tension myself until I came to this country. Until then I have never been subject to these kind of problems. All I can say is that whatever we do now won't matter in 100 years down the road. So why don't we just enjoy the story instead of having a racial Drama session.

Keep reading

I don't think ERB was referring to Blacks as "inhuman monsters", but was referencing this particular tribe of cannibals. As mentioned by other posters, if you continue to read the series, you see that ERB counterbalances this portrayal in the sequel, in which Tarzan becomes blood brothers and war chief in the Waziri tribe, who displayed the most noble characteristics of primitive man.
I don't think it's correct to say that American society as a whole thought of Blacks as "inhuman monsters", either, an inflammatory phrase inaccurately applied. Certainly, most Caucasians at that time thought of Blacks as inferior, but not "monsters" (except maybe for rapists, criminals, or other deviants).

No Subject

When ERB wrote Tarzan there was evidence of the Leopard man cult who ruled by terror. There was evidence of cannabalism, and there was evidence of horrendous tortures inflicted on captives.

That was in his age. In our age, there is evidence of similar atrocities in Kenya (read Robert Ruark's Uhura). Try Idi Amin in Uganda for eating the flesh of enemies and having them killed by being beaten with sledge hammers. And what of Winnie Mandela in South Africa for having burning tires (necklessing) around the necks of her enemies.

Then there is the genocide of the Tutsies by the Huttus and all the other abominations going on in Africa today. But Africa is not alone in committing attrocities. It happened throughout the world for all time. ERB was writing about the bad guys, because that's what made the story STUPID.


I don't think "the times" is any excuse. At the same time the abolishment of slavery was going on. It's not as if ERB is to be excused from judgement just because he wasn't outward-thinking enough to write something liberating/egalitarian. And whoever said that a variety of good and bad is shown is dead wrong. Point me to the intelligent black character in this book. The kindly or heroic one... That's right. Another silence in this book full of prejudice, fallacy and gaps.

No Subject

I'd read Tarzan of the Apes about 6 years ago and have several other ERB books which weren't all Tarzan. It amazes me the ignorance of some people who have problems with the way ERB references people. If blacks were portrayed in an "inexcusable" way, use common sense and take into account the time the book was written and its audience. Blacks were looked upon as(though maybe not by ERB) AS inhuman monsters. Being a reflection of his time, that's how ERB portrayed them, whatever his personal feelings. It amazes me how Anonymous complains about the fainting with fear by Jane's black nurse. Anonymous is annoyingly selective in pointing out the skin color alone as his complaint. What about a woman character in general being portrayed in the stereotypical way of fainting in fear. Again, when it was written, women were looked upon AS people who fainted out of fear, just as they're looked upon in modern literature as little more than sexual addicts in what they call Romance books, just as they're written in modern films as being sexual objects to be oggled, chased, and bedded. ERB's writing really isn't any different than how some people are portrayed today. The problem is, no one bothers to notice.

Anon review on Tarzan Of The Apes

How ridiculous of Anonymous to use today's self-righteous fetishism of language to bash E.R.B.'s book written almost 90 years ago. It's the same kind of short-sighted intolerance that lead the Nazis to burn books they considered 'inexcusable'. I doubt that Anonymous even read Tarzan Of The Apes because there are no 'constant references' to black people being 'inhuman monsters' -- indeed, E.R.B. portrayed people of different races just as all people are: some good and noble, and some not.

No Subject

A far more interesting book than any adaptation I've seen. The development of Tarzan's character is realistic and interesting. The author's portrayal of blacks is inexcusable however. Especially the constant references to 'blacks' as being inhuman monsters and the black 'negress' nurse of Jane who's character consists of fainting out of fear. Otherwise, an interesting and worthwhile novel.

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