A signet book planet of the apes



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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

The second day went by like the first. The apes did not bother about us except to bring us food. I was more and more puzzled about this strange establishment when, on the following day, we were given a series of tests, the memory of which humiliates me even today but which provided some distraction at the time.


The first one struck me at first as rather unusual. One of the warders came up to me while his colleague was working in another cage. My gorilla kept one hand hidden behind his back; in the other he held a whistle. He looked at me to attract my attention, put the whistle to his mouth, and produced a series of shrill blasts: this for a whole minute. Then he held out his other hand, ostentatiously showing me one of those bananas that I had enjoyed and to which all the men appeared to be partial. He held the fruit out in front of me, without taking his eyes off me.
I stretched out my hand, but the banana was out of reach and the gorilla did not come any closer. He looked disappointed and seemed to be expecting another gesture. After a moment he gave up, hid the fruit away again, and resumed his whistling. I was nervous, intrigued by this play-acting, and I almost lost patience when he once more waved the fruit out of reach. I managed to stay calm, however, trying to guess what was being expected of me, for he looked more and more surprised, as though confronted with behavior that was abnormal. He went through the same motions five or six times, then moved along to another captive. i had a distinct feeling of frustration when I saw that this captive was given the banana at the very first trial, and so was the next one. I closely watched the other gorilla, who was going through the same ceremony with the row opposite. Since he was now dealing with Nova, I did not miss one of her reactions. He whistled, then brandished the fruit as his colleague had done. Immediately the young girl became excited, moving her jaws and…
All of a sudden I understood. Nova, the gorgeous Nova, had started watering at the mouth at the sight of this titbit, like a dog when it is offered a lump of sugar. That was what the gorilla was waiting for, as far as this day was concerned. He let her have the desired object and went on to another cage.
I had understood, I tell you, and I was not very proud of it! I had studied biology at one time, and Pavlov's work held no secrets for me. Here they were, applying to men the very experiments he had carried out on dogs. And I, who had been so stupid a few minutes before, now, with my rational brain and education, not only grasped the nature of this test but also foresaw those that were to follow. For several days, perhaps, the monkeys would operate in this manner: blasts on a whistle, then the offer of a favorite food, the latter causing the subject's mouth to water. After a certain period it would be the sound of the whistle alone that would produce the effect. The meri* would have acquired what are known in scientific jargon as conditioned reflexes.
I could not stop congratulating myself on my perspicacity and could hardly wait to put it to good use. As my gorilla walked past me again, having finished his rounds, I tried by every means to attract his attention. I tapped on the bars; I made sweeping gestures, pointing at my mouth, with the result that he condescended to resume the experiment. Then, at the first blast of the whistle, and well before he had waved the fruit, I started watering at the mouth, watering at the mouth in fury, in frenzy—I, Ulysse Merou, started watering at the mouth as though my very life depended on it, such pleasure did I derive from showing him my intelligence.
As a matter of fact he appeared extremely dismayed, called his colleague over, and had a long talk with him, as on the previous day. I could follow the elementary reasoning of these clodhoppers: here was a man who only a moment before had no reflexes at all and who suddenly has acquired conditioned reflexes, which required a long time and conside


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able patience in the case of the others! I felt pity for the weakness of their intellect, which prevented them from discerning the only possible cause for this sudden progress: the capacity for thought. I am sure Zira would have been brighter.

Yet my skill and excess of zeal had a very different result from what I had expected. They went away without giving me the fruit, which one of them started munching himself. There was no longer any point in rewarding me, since the desired end had been achieved without it.


They came back the following day with other equipment. One of them was carrying a bell; the other trundled before him a machine that bore a close resemblance to an electric generator. This time, prepared for the kind of experiment to which we were to be subjected, I understood what they planned to do with these instruments even before they were put into action.
They began with Nova's neighbor, a big strapping fellow with a particularly dull expression who had come up to the edge of his cage and was clutching the bars as we all did nowadays at our jailers' approach. One of the gorillas started swinging the bell, which gave out a solemn ring, while the other connected the generator to the bars of the cage. When the bell had sounded for some time, the second operator started turning the handle of the machine. The man leaped backward, uttering a plaintive cry.
They went through this business several times on the same subject, who was coaxed by the offer of some fruit to come back and cling to the bars. The object, I knew, was to make him leap backward at the sound of the bell and before the electric shock (yet another conditioned reflex), but it was not achieved that day, the man's faculties not being sufficiently developed to enable him to relate cause and effect.
I waited for them, on the other hand, chuckling to myself, eager to show them the difference between instinct and intelligence. At the first sound of the bell I let go of the bars and retreated to the middle of the cage. At the same time I looked at them and gave a mocking smile. The gorillas wrinkled their brows. They no longer laughed at my behavior and for the first time appeared to suspect that I was teasing them.
They had decided nevertheless to do the experiment over a second tune, when their attention was diverted by the arrival of some new visitors.



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