Today is Election Day. I hope you’ve done your civic duty and voted.
The higher your educational level, the more likely you are to vote. Therefore, if you’re in college and not voting, you’re underachieving. Slackerism has never really been cool. All the cool slackers I knew in the 1990s–many proud of not voting–live pretty pathetic lives these days…I read bout them on facebook.
Themes to Guide Us
- Privileging Knowledge
- The Problem of Utopia
Planète des Singes
Pierre Boulle, author of Planet of the Apes and Bridge over the River Kwai, started out as an engineer and French secret agent, who was captured in 1943 by French legions who supported Japan (this was after France fell to Germany). He was engaging in espionage in what is now Vietnam, Loas, and Cambodia. His experience as a POW was certainly incorporated into Bridge over the River Kwai but we can also read some of that in Ulysse Mérou’s captivity in Planet of the Apes. The novel is important to this class for its commentary—it is a social science fiction political satire—on scientific authority, evolution, and intelligence (vs. intellectualism). There is also the theme about human-animal relations, which a contemporary satirical text deals with: South Park’s “Whale Whores” episode. We won’t spend too much time on this theme, but definitely be thinking about the assumptions we have of animals and, specifically, types of animals. Why are animal lives not held to the same value as human lives? Consider the term anthropocentric.
As mentioned before, some science fiction readers expect plot devices to be accurate—as scientifically precise as possible. This class looks at the allegorical aspects of science fiction: It’s a projection of the author’s cultural moment into an imagined (future) setting. Although we can clarify some of the “technical” details, let’s not get too bogged down in the physics of space travel. However, if you haven’t seen Interstellar (2014), you should. It’s out of this world–Ha!
Obvious Allusions and Puns
“Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!” (1968 film)
Where is this line in the novel?
- Ulysse Mérou is an allusion to the character Ulysses (or Odysseus) in Homer’s Odyssey.
- Soror is the sister planet of Earth (p. 23). Any guess as to why “Soror” for the “sister” planet?
- The Institute for Advanced Biological Science (p. 133) alludes (not perfectly, of course) to the Institut de France, which houses the French Academy of Sciences that you no doubt remember from the Pasteur-Pouchet Debate.
- The Institute for Advanced Biological Science is official science
- Consider the roles of the Orangutans, Gorillas, and Chimpanzees
Exploration and Discovery
Although there are other Earthlings as characters, we don’t see them enough to focus too much attention on them. However, I might ask you to comment about the Professor in next week’s post. We’ll see. Let’s think about how the protagonist, Ulysse Mérou, deals with this new world of Soror. We should try to compare the narrative of the Time Machine and Planet of the Apes to discover patterns between the two texts. Yes, patterns exist. I didn’t just pick these texts at random.
- p. 13: “[T]he voyage lasted about two years our time, during which three and a half centuries must have elapsed on Earth.”
- p. 13: “[T]he professor….often admitted he was tired of his fellow men.”
- p. 14: The spaceship is a mini-Ark with vegetable, flowers, “some birds, butterflies, and even a monkey, a little chimpanzee…christened Hector.”
- p. 18: The crew arrive in orbit around Soror, a comparable planet to Earth.
- p. 22: Is it safe? They “tried it out first on [their] chimpanzee.”
Foreshadowing to the tests the apes do on humans.
- p. 23: “[W]e knew that a civilization existed….Rational beings…had molded the face of the planet.”
Pay attention to the use of tools (or inability to use them) and how that makes a being intellectual as opposed to just intelligent.
Two years without female companionship. Imagine how happy the crew (except for the professor) is to see not just a woman but one consider conventionally beautiful by their culture’s standards. Notice how many references Ulysse make to dogs (p. 31, 33, 49, 50).
- p. 30: “[H]er eyes….[had] a sort of void, an absence of expression reminding me of a wretched mad girl I had once known.”
- p. 31: “[W]e heard her: but the sounds she uttered only added to the impression of animality created by her attitude.”
How did Nova greet Hector, the crew’s pet chimpanzee?
- p. 81: “My sleep was interrupted, however, by feverish nightmares, in which Nova’s body appeared in the guise of a monstrous serpent wound around me own body.”
Whoa! What does that dream mean?
- p. 89: When Ulysee first tried talking to Zira, “Nova looked furious and could not keep still.”
- What?!? How come? What could that possibly mean?
- p. 107: “I allowed myself to be stroked by [Zira’s] hairy hand, much to the displeasure of Nova.”
- p. 115: “I, the ultimate achievement of millennial evolution….I, Ulysse Mérou, embarked like a peacock around the gorgeous Nova on the love display.”
- p. 130: To calm Nova down, “[Ulysse] had had to resort to force to keep her quiet. After receiving a few thundering slaps across her beautiful face, she had eventually calmed down.”
- p. 134: Zira didn’t like Ulysse slumming with Nova–“Since she was now convinced I had an ape’s mind, my intimacy with the young girl vexed and shocked her.”
- p. 149: Using the flashlight to control Nova, “I am the absolute master at home, now that I possess this instrument, and no longer need any arguments more striking to keep her quiet.”
- p. 194: “I often Think of Nova….Since I have changed camps I have even forbidden myself to show her more affection than I show to her fellows.”
p. 37: “’A female savage…belonging to some backward race like those found in New Guinea or in our African forests?’”
What it means to be civilized (or advanced) has to do with how cultures behave. What’s one of the worst practices to engage in for humans? What is a marker of a civilized people? One thing for sure is that technologies appear to mark civilized societies. Of course, such an attitude is culturally relativistic.
- p. 41: Ulysse considered the Soror humans to have “a lack of conscious though; the absence of intelligence.”
- p. 46: “[T]hese beings were roused to fury by objects. Things that were manufactured provoked their anger as well as their fear.”
- p. 47: “Their women were all beautiful, though none could rival Nova’s splendor.”
- p. 48: “[T]he shelters were not even huts, but nestlike constructions like those built by the big apes in our African forests.”
- p. 112: Sex in captivity–“The only surprising element in these displays was the scientific ardor with which these apes followed them, never omitting to makes copious notes on the procedure.”
- Let’s connect this to another scientific observation of animal mating. What could we say about the situation the apes are in as they try to record human mating?
- What environment factors may affect the Soror humans’ behavior?
Continue reading another third of Planet of the Apes by next class, 11/05.