Plan for the Day
- Wrapping up Planet of the Apes (below)
- What’s all this Monkey business around Planète des Singes?
- The French word singe actually translates as “monkey”
- Consider the choice of “ape” vs. “monkey”
- Read reviews of Planet of the Apes:
The Complete Review of The Planet of the Apes
Tor.com’s Review of The Planet of the Apes
- Did you hear about those poor monkeys force into labor?!?
Planète des Singes
We’ll be wrapping up our discussion of Pierre Boulle’s novel. I’m not sure how much value showing parts of the films will be, but, remember, I’ll ask very specific (and not-so-specific) questions on the final that will show whether or not you’ve read the novel or just watched a film adaptation. Below we’re going to start by thinking about the Soror Ape society and what roles the different groups play—gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees…and humans.
Compare this discussion with the one on The Time Machine where The Time Traveller points out that the future had no challenges left to conquer. What did he think that led to? Think about collectivistic vs. individualistic cultures. Soror doesn’t have nations: “a council of ministers, at the head of which is a triumvirate consisting of one gorilla, one orangutan, and on chimpanzee” (p. 150).
- p. 150: “[T]here is also a parliament composed of three chambers:” gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees.
- p. 150: “In principle they all have equal rights and are allowed to occupy any position.”
- p. 152: “any form of hierarchy is contested.”
- p. 154: “The unification of the planet, the absence of war and military expenditures…strike me as being factors that would foster rapid progress in every realm of the simian world.”
Obviously, this book is a satire on politics and probably satirizes the politics of establishment science the most. The orangutans “are Official Science” (p. 128 and 152), but, as Cornelius and Zira describe the chimpanzees make the most contributions to science.
- p. 120: Ulysse laments that Zira might consider him to be “an animal: an intelligent animal, perhaps, but by no means an intellectual one.” But…
- p. 122-123: “It was a spiritual communion that had been established between Zira and me through the medium of geometry.”
- p. 129: Zira believes humans on Soror are “incapable of progressing and acquiring a precise knowledge of the universe. Because of this he has never been able to use a tool with any success.”
- p. 133: “[Zira] subsequently told me that for a long time she had preferred to regard me as a sorcerer or a charlatan rather than accept my statements.”
Why would a scientist—or anyone—want that belief even for a little while?
- p. 141: “‘[Zaius]’s as stubborn as a mule and as stupid as a man!’ Zira burst out….nothing will make him change his opinion.”
- p. 144: “[T]here are also, among the scientists, a few chimpanzees whom the Academy has been obliged to admit because of their sensational discoveries.”
- p. 152: Zira’s view of orangutans—“Pompous, solemn, pedantic, devoid of originality and critical sense, intent on preserving tradition, blind and deaf to all innovation, they form the substratum of every academy.”
- p. 153: “Not so long ago…school textbooks still stated that the planet Soror was the center of the world, although this heresy had been rejected long before by every ape of even mediocre intelligence.”
- pp. 155-156: The chimps have a thirst to answer scientific questions—they want to know their origins, to create knowledge.
- p. 192: “[T]he Grand Council granted” Ulysse the chance to collaborate with Cornelius even though “[t]he authorities still appeared reluctant to admit [his] nature and origin.”
Public Opinion on Science
Wait a minute! The Public doesn’t establish science, so why would public opinion be important?
- p. 143: “[P]ublic opinion is a more powerful element than Zaius, more powerful than all the orangutans combined, more powerful even than the gorillas.”
- p. 180: “[P]ublic opinion demanded [Ulysse go free]and they had to yield.”
- p. 181: Ulysse “knew what a powerful support the press could be.”
Towards the end of the novel, we learn about what it means to have a civilization. We also learn how apes came to rule the Monkey Planet.
- p. 204: “It seems that this prehistoric city was not very different from those of the present day.”
- For that to be true, what might the comment on technology (technological advancement) be?
- p. 210: “What is it that characterizes a civilization?” “It is principally the arts, and first and foremost, literature.”
- p. 211: “[O]nce an original book has been written–and no more than one or two appear in a century–men of letters imitate it.”
- p. 212: “It seemed absolutely clear that industry did not require the presence of a rational being to maintain itself. Basically, industry consisted of manual laborers, always performing the selfsame tasks, who could easily be replaced by apes.”
- Can you be replaced by a machine (or an ape)?
- p. 250: On politics–“The gorillas have not yet adopted an official stand, but they are always against anything that tends to disturb law and order.”
In class we discussed the issues surrounding the need for creativity and imagination in education. Although the novel doesn’t spend too much time on education, we can conclude that Boulle is making a pointed comment on the problem of rote memorization as a pedagogical practice.
- p. 200: “It begins in childhood. All our education is based on imitation.”
- Consider the meaning of the verb “ape”
- p. 200: “’It’s the orangutans…They force every young monkey to repeat the errors of his ancestors.”
- p. 201: “The dark ages the chimpanzee deplored had lasted about ten thousand years.”
- p. 241: Machine that explains what happened–“…not only her own individual memory but the memory of the species
- Obviously, I hope, this idea of a memory of a species is metaphoric. Could it be based on a science of memory, cognition, or socialization?
- p. 243: On reading…”A cerebral laziness has taken hold of us. No more books; even detective novels have now become too great an intellectual effort.”
- Why mention “detective novels” and intellectual effort?
- p. 246: “I’m not unhappy. I have no more worries or responsibilities. Most of us are adapting ourselves to this regime [being the apes slaves…or pets].”
- p. 246: “Here we have stayed put, mainly from laziness. We sleep; we are incapable of organizing ourselves for resistance…”
- Relax! Now, everything is done for you…
- p. 262: “To hell with the professor….he has apparently found a satisfactory solution to the problem of existence.”
- What does Ulysse mean by “the problem of existence”?
Critic vs. Critical
I came across a review on the novel The Planet of the Apes. It is a surface reading of the novel and devoid of critical thinking. I thought, “what a useless review,” but then I managed to think of a pedagogical reason to include it. Sorry for the cliché, but it’s a teaching moment:
After reading the review, consider how the review presents its criticism. What does the author value? Pay attention to the “B+” rating at the beginning and the descriptive words the author uses to refer to plot devices and setting.
A critic often provides criticism, which isn’t the same as critical thought, which requires critical thinking. In English Studies, we often try to separate a text’s value from reading it purely for entertainment. A critic isn’t usually able to think about metaphor, allusion, and cultural constructions of texts. Therefore, they focus on believability, excitement, coherence, and taste/conviction. It’s unfortunate that critical analysis, the higher form of interpretation, shares the same root as “critic.” Critics write reviews akin to book reports; students in the academy write essays.
After reading the review, consider the tone and content of the piece. Specifically, consider what the reviewer decided to focus on and how you feel about that approach. Obviously, reviews are short (well, effective ones are), so things will be missing, but you should be able to recognize what the reviewer privileges based on what’s mentioned.
Whenever anyone communicates–professor, friend, journalist, scientist, etc.–they pick and choose what to (re)present to an audience. In other words, the communicator filters the information based on biases, assumptions, audiences, and purposes. So what?
Time permitting. Here’s a slightly better review of the novel. Besides calling the planet “Sonor,” what other flaws do you see with the review?
On to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!!! I should have put this closer to Halloween, but Planet of the Apes follows The Time Machine well. You can read Frankenstein for free online.