Tarzan of the Apes | Study Guide

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Tarzan of the Apes | Chapter 14 : At the Mercy of the Jungle | Summary



Tarzan mentally digests everything he has seen. He feels a kinship with Professor Porter, Samuel T. Philander, and Cecil Clayton, "and for the girl he had a strange longing which he scarcely understood." Once the cowardly sailors go back to their ship, Tarzan, assured of Jane Porter's safety, goes into the jungle after Clayton, who is completely out of his element in the darkening forest. Tarzan figures out that Clayton is looking for the two older men, and he becomes concerned when he notices they are getting ever closer to Mbonga's village. A lion stalks Clayton from just paces away, and just before it attacks, Tarzan drops from a tree onto its back, puts it in a headlock, and then kills it with his knife. Clayton tries to thank Tarzan and start a conversation in English, but his attempts are met with sounds resembling "the chattering of monkeys mingled with the growling of some wild beast." He concludes this cannot be Tarzan, but rather "an utter stranger to English." Tarzan forcibly directs Clayton in the opposite direction of Mbonga's village, and Clayton is convinced he is now Tarzan's prisoner.

Back at the beach a lioness is trying to get into the cabin. Esmeralda panics; then she faints when the lioness puts her paws on the windowsill. The enormous cat breaks through the timeworn lattice John Clayton built 21 years ago, and she struggles to get her body through the window's opening. Jane rouses Esmeralda, who faints again as she tries to fit into a cabinet. Jane grabs the revolver left by Cecil Clayton and shoots the lioness in the shoulder. The great cat retreats in fear, and Jane faints. When Jane opens her eyes, Sabor has managed to get her entire body through the window.


Communication barriers cause a lot of problems in this and the remaining chapters of Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzan can read and write printed English, but he can't speak it or easily understand cursive writing. Because of this he isn't sure whether Cecil Clayton is friendly or not, nor why Clayton seems so hell-bent on walking farther and farther into the jungle. Likewise, Clayton has no idea Tarzan is trying to help him, not take him as a prisoner. Oral communication would be much more helpful to Tarzan than writing, but none of the books within the cabin taught him how to speak. That's something that can only be learned with the help of another human. Clayton's assumption that the man who saves him from the lion is not Tarzan of the Apes also causes future confusion and heartbreak.

As mentioned in Chapter 13, Tarzan is Cecil Clayton's cousin. The title of Lord Greystoke went to John Clayton's brother—who happens to be Cecil Clayton's father—when John and Alice Clayton were presumed dead in 1888. Despite their shared heritage, Tarzan and Cecil Clayton couldn't be more different. Clayton is comfortable with a gun but doesn't know how to use a spear, while Tarzan has never even seen or heard a gun before the white people came ashore. Tarzan can hear "the soft bending of grasses" underneath the leopard's paws; Clayton is oblivious to the fact that he is being stalked. He has also completely lost his sense of direction in the dense jungle overgrowth that is so familiar to Tarzan. Personal experience is the cause of these differences. Tarzan learned how to survive in the jungle just as Clayton learned how to survive in polite society. Yet both men do share some traits, such as their sense of right and wrong and their desire to protect Jane Porter. These things are instinctual, or products of one's inner nature.

Compared to Esmeralda, Jane does a fairly good job of protecting herself and her maid against the lioness. She is the stronger of the two women and manages to keep her wits when faced with imminent danger, just as Alice Clayton did during John's first ape attack. But also like Alice, Jane can't completely withstand the stress of the situation, and she faints after shooting her foe. Jane doesn't lose her mind like Alice did, but the implication is the same: women are too fragile to handle life-threatening situations on their own. That Jane handles things better than Esmeralda is a function of her race and education; as the stereotypical "slave" character, uneducated Esmeralda spends all her time worrying, complaining, and fainting in a way that isn't feminine so much as childlike. Jane's reaction is much closer to the feminine ideal of the early 20th century, when strength in ladies of a certain class was admirable as long as they weren't too independent or outwardly masculine.

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