Tarzan of the Apes | Study Guide

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Tarzan of the Apes | Chapter 15 : The Forest God | Summary



Tarzan and Cecil Clayton hear Jane Porter's gunshot. Clayton can't keep up with the now-speeding Tarzan, so Tarzan motions for Clayton to get on his back so they can swing through the trees. They reach the cabin just as Sabor's hindquarters slip through the window. Jane is on the verge of shooting Esmeralda and herself to spare them from a grislier death when she notices something pulling the lioness back through the window. Outside, Tarzan pulls Sabor by the tail while issuing commands to Clayton in a foreign tongue. Upon realizing Clayton has no idea what he's saying, Tarzan launches himself onto Sabor's back and latches his arms around her neck. Sabor's neck snaps, and Tarzan lets out "the bull ape's savage roar of victory."

A frightened Jane calls Clayton (whom she calls Cecil) inside the cabin. He offers to introduce her to the man who saved her life, but Tarzan is gone. Jane shudders at the thought of the war cry of the "forest god," but she also admits they owe him their lives, asking God to "bless him and keep him in safety in his wild and savage jungle!" Esmeralda wakes and wonders aloud if she is dead. The stress of the evening catches up with Jane, and she throws herself down on a bench, "screaming with hysterical laughter."


William Cecil Clayton—known to his friends at Cecil, and often referred to in the book by his last name—admires Tarzan for his glorious physique and knowledge of life in the jungle as well as the selfless heroism he shows by saving "a strange white girl" from a "shrieking, clawing man-eater." His esteem for Tarzan's heroics demonstrates two things. The first is that Clayton doesn't think he would do the same thing in Tarzan's position. He risks his life to save Jane Porter because she is "the one woman in all the world whom he loved." If he had never met Jane before, as is the case with Tarzan, he probably would have worried more about saving himself rather than her.

The second notable thing about Cecil Clayton's admiration of Tarzan involves race. The narrator says Clayton felt compelled to save Jane because she was "one of his own kind and race." This, plus Clayton's observation about Tarzan saving "a strange white girl," indicates Clayton does not acknowledge Tarzan as being white. Despite Tarzan's noble blood, his appearance makes him seem of a lower social class than even the mutinous sailors. Clayton is extremely grateful for Tarzan's assistance, but that doesn't mean he views the "forest god" as an equal.

This doesn't mean Clayton is a bad or even unlikeable character. He is polite and respectful to Tarzan, even when he thinks the other man is taking him prisoner, and he doesn't take any credit for Jane's rescue, even though doing so would perhaps increase his chances of winning her heart. Brave, loyal, and filled with a sense of duty, Clayton is the mirror image of what Tarzan would have been if he had not been raised by wild apes.

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