Tarzan of the Apes | Study Guide

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Tarzan of the Apes | Chapter 28 : Conclusion | Summary

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Summary

Cecil Clayton, Samuel T. Philander, and Professor Porter are delighted to see Jane Porter unharmed, and shocked to learn that the man who saved her is none other than Tarzan of the Apes. The group retires to the "modest little hostelry" in front of which their cars are parked and soon hear the sound of another car. It is Robert Canler and Reverend Tousley. Canler insists he and Jane marry at once and then leave on the midnight train. Jane tries to stall, which enrages Canler. He takes Jane by the arm, only to find himself manhandled by Tarzan, who lifts him by the throat. Clayton tries to intervene, but Tarzan throws him across the room. Only Jane can calm Tarzan: "For my sake," she says, looking into Tarzan's eyes. He complies, but only when Canler agrees to never bother Jane again.

Tarzan asks to speak with Jane alone but is delayed by Professor Porter, who is upset Tarzan interfered with Canler. Tarzan explains Jane doesn't have to marry Canler because Tarzan has the treasure chest. He hands the professor a letter of credit for $241,000—approximately $6.25 million in today's dollars. Professor Porter is overcome with gratitude. "You have given me the means to save my honor," he says.

The wildfire is moving closer, and Clayton hustles everyone to the train station. Jane, Professor Porter, and Esmeralda ride with him, while Mr. Philander rides with Tarzan. Tarzan asks Mr. Philander about the three skeletons in the Claytons' African cabin, and Mr. Philander confirms the smallest was that of an ape.

In the car ahead, Jane tries to figure out if she loves Tarzan or fears him. The "spell of enchantment" that befell her in Africa is absent in "prosaic Wisconsin," and the "immaculate young Frenchman" doesn't appeal to her in the primal way the "stalwart forest god" had. She looks at Clayton and decides he is a better social and cultural match for her. When Clayton turns to her and proposes marriage, she says yes.

At the train station Tarzan also proposes to Jane, saying that for her sake he has "become a civilized man" and that he "will be whatever you will me to be." Jane realizes the depth of his love and immediately regrets her agreement to marry Clayton. She tells Tarzan everything, including how much she loves him in return. Tarzan doesn't know the rules of society, so he lets Jane make the decision that will be best for her "eventual welfare." She decides to marry Clayton and never see Tarzan again.

A message is delivered to Tarzan at the train station. It is from Lieutenant D'Arnot, confirming that Tarzan's fingerprints match the child's fingerprints in John Clayton's journal. Tarzan is Lord Greystoke. Tarzan decides to keep the revelation from Cecil Clayton, whose whole life would change if he knew the truth—as would Jane's. When Clayton asks how Tarzan ended up in the jungle, Tarzan tells him he was born there. His mother was an ape, but he doesn't know his father's identity.

Analysis

Jane Porter is faced with the ultimate choice at the end Tarzan of the Apes: should she marry for love or for comfort? This may seem like a "no-brainer" to the reader who has been rooting for Tarzan and Jane the entire time, but Jane's situation is very different from most modern-day women. Very few upper-class women worked in the early 20th century, and those who did usually stopped when they got married. Jane has no income of her own, and her father has lost their entire savings (or so she thinks), so she will have no inheritance. It is now up to her to provide for both of them, and the only means she has of doing that is through marriage. She chooses Clayton because of their similar backgrounds and upbringing. He will ensure she is happy, even if she never feels romantic love for him.

Romantic love scares Jane. She feels it every time Tarzan touches her, but she tells herself it doesn't mean anything beyond primal attraction. The "psychological appeal" of Tarzan is undoubtedly better than the man himself, so as long as she doesn't touch him, she won't have feelings for him. In this instance, the logic that separates man from beast also separates man from woman. Jane pushes aside her instinct to become Tarzan's mate and instead agrees to marry the physically weaker but socially stronger man, which shows that the rules of society aren't the same as the rules of the jungle.

For fans of the numerous movies about the jungle-born English lord, the most surprising thing about Tarzan of the Apes is that Tarzan doesn't get the girl in the end. It could have been so easy for him to tell Clayton and Jane he is the true Lord Greystoke and take away everything Clayton has. But Tarzan is first and foremost a gentleman; his own social and monetary gain would mean the destruction of another's. Tarzan cares little about Clayton, who would be greatly affected by the news of Tarzan's claim to the family title and wealth, but he cares immensely about Jane. Unwilling to break her promise of marriage to Clayton, she would be stuck with a much lower social status and means than she had originally agreed to. Jane's happiness is Tarzan's primary concern, and he would never do anything to put that happiness at risk. This means he must keep his true identity a secret, at least until the next book in the series, The Return of Tarzan.

Leaving Tarzan brokenhearted at the end of Tarzan of the Apes was a crafty move on Edgar Rice Burroughs's part. Separating Jane and Tarzan may have initially disappointed readers hoping for a romantic conclusion, but it also heightened the anticipation for subsequent volumes in the Tarzan series. Readers devoured them to discover whether the hero and heroine finally get their happy ending. They do, but not without a lot of peril.

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