Tarzan of the Apes | Study Guide

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Tarzan of the Apes Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 Nov. 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tarzan-of-the-Apes/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, November 29). Tarzan of the Apes Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tarzan-of-the-Apes/

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Tarzan of the Apes Study Guide." November 29, 2017. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tarzan-of-the-Apes/.


Course Hero, "Tarzan of the Apes Study Guide," November 29, 2017, accessed November 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tarzan-of-the-Apes/.

Tarzan of the Apes | Quotes


Himself brave and fearless, yet was he able to appreciate the awful suffering which fear entails.

Narrator, Chapter 2

"Real men" don't feel fear in Tarzan of the Apes. Unlike the women in their lives, John Clayton, whom this quote is about, and his biological son, Tarzan, are always brave in the face of danger. The elder Clayton, having been raised in a culture of gentile nobility, is aware of and empathetic to the feelings of those around him, which makes him more superior than a "regular" man, at least in the eyes of the speaker. Tarzan, who is raised by apes in the jungle, doesn't exhibit this aspect of his father's personality until alone with Jane Porter, the first human for whom he feels any emotion.


She had a great capacity for mother love and mother sorrow.

Narrator, Chapter 4

The speaker is referring to Kala, Tarzan's adoptive mother. She shows a level of love and devotion uncommon in the animal world, which causes the speaker to portray her as being a more sympathetic character than the rest of the apes. Though not as "tender and beautiful" as Lady Alice Clayton, she is the only ape in the story who isn't described using adjectives synonymous with brutality and anger. She is "more human" than the rest of her kind and therefore treated with a more compassionate eye.


The adventure with the lioness gave Tarzan food for pleasurable memories.

Narrator, Chapter 5

Tarzan's first run-in with Sabor happens at the lake when Tarzan is 10 years old. He and a young ape about the same age are getting a drink when Sabor attacks. Tarzan escapes into the water but his ape companion isn't as fast. The speaker characterizes this as a happy memory, which seems out of line for something associated with the death of a loved one. This indicates just how far removed Tarzan is from the very concept of what it means to be human. Raised by apes, he has supplanted his human instincts and reactions with those of his adoptive tribe. Death is a fact of life in the jungle, and Tarzan accepts it as such. His feelings are not guided by traditional concepts of human emotion, which means he completely overlooks the sadness of his companion's death in favor of the excitement of the unusual.


His wild jungle life had inured him to the sight of dead and dying animals.

Narrator, Chapter 6

Tarzan feels no sadness or fear when he sees the skeletons of Alice and John Clayton in the cabin. This is an unusual reaction for a human, but Tarzan is no ordinary human. Unlike other members of his race and species he has to kill to survive, and killing means being faced with death. It doesn't bother him because he's never known anything different. Likewise, Tarzan doesn't fear or worry about his own mortality. For him, death is simply a fact of life.


No longer did he feel shame for his hairless body or his human features.

Narrator, Chapter 7

As a child, Tarzan feels insecure about his appearance. He thinks himself ugly, like hairless Histah the snake, and envies the hairy bodies and flat faces of his ape family. He feelings change when he discovers he isn't an ape at all but a man. Through his primer books, Tarzan has learned humans are superior to animals. His smooth body, thin nose, and high forehead are now sources of pride. He thinks himself better than all the other creatures in the jungle.


Hereditary instinct ... usurped the functions of his untaught mind and saved him from transgressing a worldwide law of whose very existence he was ignorant.

Narrator, Chapter 9

Tarzan generally eats everything he kills, and he always eats his enemies. He fully intends to eat the body of Kulonga, an African tribesman, but reconsiders before taking the first bite. He has learned nothing about the ills of cannibalism from the books inside the cabin, so it is pure instinct that tells him it is wrong to eat another human. Tarzan's human instincts override his animal upbringing for the first time in his life.


He had had it in his power to kill his enemy, but had allowed him to live—unharmed.

Narrator, Chapter 12

The apes have always known Tarzan is different, but his oddness really comes to light after his battle with Terkoz. Fights like this generally end in death, especially when one ape is trying to show supremacy over another. The difference between Tarzan and the rest of his tribe is that Tarzan doesn't need to kill to show his power and strength. He can get the same effect—with the bonus of resigning his kingship—by humiliating his opponent. Tarzan's conscious choice to let Terkoz live will never be forgotten, nor understood, by his ape brethren.


Tarzan of the Apes had decided to mark his evolution from the lower orders in every possible manner.

Narrator, Chapter 13

Tarzan has long associated clothing with man's superiority over animals. As soon as he leaves the ape tribe he goes to Mbonga's village to find "ornaments and clothing" that will mark him as superior to all the other creatures in the jungle. This is in part because of his confidence in his superiority, but it's also because of his secret fear that he might turn into an ape someday after all. His desire to wear clothing is as much an assurance to himself that he really is human as it is a sign to others he is not an animal.


He knew that she was created to be protected, and that he was created to protect her.

Narrator, Chapter 17

Though they have never met, Tarzan's mission in life is to keep Jane Porter safe and happy. His primal instinct to protect harkens back to the primitive human era when the man was a virile, overtly masculine warrior whose sole job was to protect his helpless and feminine mate. Some people may view this mindset as romantic, but it was also necessary if one intended to further their genetic line. The primitive instinct to protect is all about the man's urge to reproduce with a genetically desirable mate. Once he has found her, he doesn't want anything bad to happen to her. Tarzan's instinct to protect Jane is the by-product of his lust for her.


Men were indeed more foolish and more cruel than the beasts of the jungle!

Narrator, Chapter 17

The speaker makes this observation as Tarzan watches the crew of the Arrow kill their makeshift captain before burying him on top of Professor Porter's treasure chest. This is the second time Tarzan has seen a sailor shot point blank for no good reason. When viewed in conjunction with the cannibalistic orgies of the native Africans, it appears humans go around killing each other all the time. This is something Tarzan would expect of the lower orders of the animal kingdom, such as boars and monkeys, and he is both shocked and dismayed to see that humans are not as great as he thought them to be.


Hunger was changing them from human beasts to wild beasts.

Narrator, Chapter 19

Cannibalism isn't part of Western culture. Even Tarzan, who has never met another human in his life, knows it goes against the natural order of things. Those in the book who are cannibals, including the apes and the native African villagers, are portrayed as being "less than" their white, Western, human counterparts. To Tarzan, eating the flesh of one's species is akin to being an animal. That's why it's so shocking when members of the mutinous Arrow crew begin eating their dead shipmates. Starvation makes them revert to their primal survival instincts. No longer civilized humans, they have become wild, bloodthirsty animals.


'What are you, Tarzan?' he asked aloud. 'An ape or a man?'

Tarzan, Chapter 23

Tarzan flees to the jungle after Jane Porter's departure, determined to leave the world of humans behind. Then he remembers Lieutenant D'Arnot, who is alone in the cabin. Tarzan asks himself whether he is man or ape to figure out how he should proceed. Apes are concerned only about themselves. They would leave D'Arnot to fend for himself. But Tarzan has a feeling that humans look out for one another, especially if they are of the same race. The guilt Tarzan feels about leaving D'Arnot behind tells him he is more human than ape, and he returns to the cabin.


It is mind, and not muscle, that makes the human animal greater than the mighty beasts of your jungle.

Lieutenant D'Arnot, Chapter 25

Tarzan doesn't understand how humans have survived so long without the skills he learned as a child in the jungle, and Lieutenant D'Arnot points out survival is based on much more than size, speed, and sharpness of teeth. Intelligence is what separates man from beast, and it has allowed humans to create weapons and armies to conquer the natural world and cities and keep it all at bay. In D'Arnot's mind, intelligence is far more powerful than brute strength.


I see now that you could not be happy with—an ape.

Tarzan, Chapter 27

Jane Porter fears Tarzan would be bored with a conventional Western life, but Tarzan interprets her reluctance to marry him as a judgment about his past. The confidence he felt while living in the jungle is greatly diminished now that he has transitioned into Western society, especially when it comes to Jane. He worries he cannot be the gentleman she desires.


I never knew who my father was.

Tarzan, Chapter 28

Tarzan learns he is the true Lord Greystoke only moments after Jane Porter tells him she is going to marry Cecil Clayton, who is thought to be the heir to the title. Tarzan deliberately lies to Clayton about his parentage so as not to ruin Jane's chance of a happy and prosperous life. One word about his true identity could make Tarzan's life better, but he cares far more about Jane's happiness than his own.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Tarzan of the Apes? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!