The Term “Cruel” and Its Derivatives in “Tarzan of the Apes”

(Update July 30, 2021. At last, I got it looking better. I did not want to delete the original post, still shown beneath, right below the paper’s now edited CONCLUSION. Yepper, I sure did edit the featured paper! You can download a PDF copy of it here. So, it is an edited work, not the original one, but I think my professor would have seen it as an improvement. I submitted it to my university here in Philippines in 2019, but I haven’t heard anything regarding it ever since. So, rather than let it just die out, I’m giving it out to the world, for anyone who might have good use for it. You may simply use the blog post’s permalink as the web-source, https://sacadalang.com/2014/06/12/cruel-in-tarzan-of-the-apes/

Thanks. Cheers and blessings!!

Here now is the CONCLUSION, from my paper’s page 16:

CONCLUSION (of the paper, “Tracing Cruelty in Tarzan of the Apes” by Mona Lisa Siacor). Edited July 30, 2021.

Cruel and its derivatives are used in describing all characters or their actions in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel Tarzan of the Apes. They are used to state that Tarzan has no cruelty inherent in him. They are used in describing objects that are inanimate, or most of the time even when no concurrent action is present to qualify as cruel. The Whites, especially the Porter group, see the jungle as threatening the most, attributing cruelty to it even when there is no concurrent action. However, where actions are concurrent to the usage, the Porter group is more responsible for cruelty than any other character group in the novel. In most these instances it is one of them who is being cruel to another of their member, by the use of words. Significantly, almost all of the cruel terms are not essential at all in building up the meaning of the phrase where the term is found, within the novel’s narrative.

Using many cruel or violence related terms to describe the jungle and its inhabitants contradicts Tarzan’s perception that his jungle home is peaceful (Burroughs, 1914  217; ch. 17). Tarzan excuses the jungle’s violence as a way of life, as a matter of survival. Usually he kills dispassionately, but sometimes for pleasure (Burroughs, 1914  117,118; ch. 10). D’ Arnot lauds Tarzan’s survival. He tells him, “it is mind, and not muscle, that makes the human animal greater than the mighty beasts of your jungle… Otherwise, …how long would you have lasted in the savage wilderness?” (Burroughs, 1914  324: ch. 25). All jungle inhabitants are Tarzan’s enemies except his ape tribe and Tantor (Burroughs, 1914  103; ch. 9). This is reflected in the many times cruel is directed from the jungle inhabitants to Tarzan. The jungle is peaceful for Tarzan and he is “lord” of himself and of his world, as Burroughs puts it (“Tarzan Theme”), because with his “mind” and physical prowess he is able to subdue threats against him. Only Tantor is not afraid of him (Burroughs, 1914  48, 59; ch. 4, 5).

Outside the jungle the facility of the word is important. Civilization uses words the way Tarzan uses his mind and his strength to subdue threats. In civilization, the “greatest” are those with the best minds such as the novel’s characters Prof. Porter and the Claytons, who are intelligent and are good with words (Burroughs, 1914  9, 83, 194; ch. 1, 7, 16 ). Prof. Porter and Cecil Clayton are the only characters in the novel who inflict cruelty using words. In the preliminaries, John Clayton (Tarzan’s father, Lord Greystoke) as well had earlier dismissed the ship Fuwalda’s captain with “you are something of an ass” (Burroughs, 1914  18; ch. 1).

The jungle “beasts” are man’s enemies, says D’ Arnot (Burroughs, 1914  324: ch. 25). In the face of this, civilized man’s recourse is to subdue the jungle in the eyes of civilization by using words, which is the case with the novel Tarzan of the Apes. Albeit in reality, the jungle and its inhabitants are impervious to words. In Tarzan of the Apes, it is only in words that the jungle is cruel to civilized man—though this assertion itself is false even within the novel, based on the findings above. This may be seen, therefore, as a case of demonizing an imaginary enemy through propaganda. But since Burroughs’ aim was simply to sell a story, in which he was indeed very successful, then looking into propaganda as a matter of popular consumption, so to say, is another consideration.

(Here now was the original blog post: )

🙂 Hi!

I made a term paper in class and when the professor handed it back with a heart-warming grade I asked him if it was okay to share it online. He said yes! So here it is. Why? Because I spent energy on it and now that I got a grade for it I felt bad that its use ends up just there. I made it to pass, yes, but it was only me and my teacher who got to read it, so, what the heck. Better let it out and be done with it. I hope you can appreciate the way I made it, at how crazily easy and difficult it is at the same time.

Tarzan of the Apes in All Story 1912

The cover of the magazine that let out the first Tarzan story into the world, in 1912. The picture was copied from: http://pdsh.wikia.com/wiki/Tarzan

I had to edit the format before uploading because the tables musn’t be cut at the wrong places. It has lots of tables. So that’s the difficult part. Attention has to be given to the descriptions that accompany each table that appears, one after the other. Attention has to be given to the placements of elements inside the tables, within rows and columns alike. Otherwise, it’s all just a bunch of jumbled gibberish. Honestly, I really found myself laughing at my work for a long time 😀

The easy part, eh?, was that since I couldn’t come up with how to say things nicely after months of reading about Tarzan and his world both in and outside the book I decided instead to find a pattern within the product itself, the finished sold-like-hotcake novel that turned Edgar Rice Burroughs into an instant sensation. The idea came to me while I was noticing that many words alluding to cruelty keep appearing one after the other as I turn the pages. It became a sort of a game to me, wanting to find out if I could distill something out of the prolific appearances of such nasty words in such an innocent-sounding story. Yosh! I was on my way. I felt that it was the cleanest way I could do the requirement without getting bogged down in the arguments for or against this and that, not the least being what kind of guy and gal Tarzan and Jane are. The arguments touch on psychology, history, sociology, literary criticism (which I don’t know much on!)… the works.

Papers are among the craziest things in the world. That’s a personal opinion 🙂 and you can argue ’til you’re blue with me all I’ll give out is an I-don’t-know-anything chuckle.

So do I like Tarzan? I used to, but not anymore. However, both that question and that answer may first have to be verified as to which particular Tarzan is being asked of and which particular Tarzan did I like. Anyway, the Tarzan of the apes is a caricature of a wish that originated from a context that won’t get a vote from me. That Tarzan’s outside-the-book world was a time when discrimination was a respected norm.

Needless to say I learned much from and through my readings on Tarzan, many of which were not used in this paper. However, those are the more important ones. 🙂 My teacher’s parting comment was that the presentation was nicely put up but I should have written more on the conclusion. I agreed with him, too, but at that time I was already fed up with so much thinking about Tarzan, day in and out, that I was simply relieved to have wrapped up fast and get the load off my hands 😛

One thought on “The Term “Cruel” and Its Derivatives in “Tarzan of the Apes”

  1. Pingback: Bourne, Tarzan, et al as Chemical Compounds – PERSPECTIVES -so to live fully-

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