A signet book planet of the apes



Download 1.17 Mb.
Page22/38
Date28.01.2021
Size1.17 Mb.
1   ...   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   ...   38
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Zira has secretly lent me a flashlight and has slipped me some books that I keep hidden under the straw. I now read and speak the apes' language fluently. I spend several hours every night studying their civilization. Nova protested at first. She came over and sniffed at one of the books, baring her teeth as though it were a dangerous adversary. I only had to focus the beam of my flash on her to see her dash back into her corner, trembling and whimpering. I am the absolute master at home, now that I possess this instrument, and no longer need any arguments more striking to keep her quiet. I feel she looks upon me as a redoubtable being, and I notice from many signs that the other captives also regard me as such. My prestige has increased considerably, and I take unfair advantage of this. Sometimes I have an unreasoning desire to terrified,-Jova by brandishing the flashlight, after which she creeps back to pardon me for my cruelty.


I flatter myself that I now have a fairly clear idea of the simian world.
The apes are not divided into nations. The whole planet is administered by a council of ministers, at the head of which is a triumvirate consisting of one gorilla, one orangutan, and one chimpanzee. In conjunction with this government, there is also a parliament composed of three chambers: the Chamber of Gorillas, of Orangutans, and of Chimpanzees, each of which attends to the interests of its respective members.
In fact, this division into three races is the only one that exists. In principle they all have equal rights and are allowed to occupy any position. Yet, with certain exceptions, each species confines itself to its own specialty.
From far back in the past, when they used to reign by force, the gorillas have preserved a taste for authority and still form the most powerful class. They do not mingle with the herd, they are never seen at popular demonstrations, but it is they who administer at very high level most of the great enterprises. Rather ignorant as a rule, they know by instinct how to make use of their skills. They excel in the art of drawing up general directives and handling the other apes. When a technician makes an interesting discovery—a luminous tube, for instance, or some new combustible fuel—it is almost always a gorilla who undertakes to exploit it and derive every possible benefit from it. Without being really intelligent, they are much more cunning than the orangutans. They get whatever they want out of the latter by playing on their pride. Thus, at the head of our institute, above Zaius who is the scientific director, there is a gorilla administrator who is rarely seen. He has come into our room only once. He looked me up and down with his particular air of authority, and I almost automatically rose to my feet and stood to attention. I noticed Zaius' servile attitude, and Zira herself seemed impressed by his grand manner.
The gorillas who do not occupy positions of authority are usually engaged on lesser jobs requiring physical strength. Zoram and Zanam, for instance, are there only for the rough work and especially for maintaining law and order when necessary.
Or else the gorillas are hunters. This is a function more or less reserved for them. They capture wild animals and, in particular, men. I have already pointed out the enormous numbers of men required for the apes' experiments. These experiments play a part in their lives that I find more disconcerting as I discover their importance. A large section of the simian population seems to be engaged on biological study, but I shall come back to this oddity later. However it may be, the supplying of human material necessitates an organized enterprise. A whole tribe of hunters, beaters, porters, and tradesmen is devoted to this industry, at the head of which there are always gorillas. I believe this is a prosperous business, for man fetches a high price.
By the side of the gorillas—I was going to say below them, although any form of hierarchy is contested—are the orangutans and the chimpanzees. The former, who are by far the least numerous, were described to me by Zira in a single phrase: they are official science.
This is partly true, but some of them occasionally indulge in politics, the arts, and literature. They bring the same characteristics to all these activities. Pompous, solemn, pedantic, devoid of originality and critical sense, intent on preserving tradition, blind and deaf to all innovation, they form the substratum of every academy. Endowed with a good memory, they learn an enormous amount by heart and from books. Then they themselves write other books, in which they repeat what they have read, thereby earning the respect of their fellow orangutans. Perhaps I am slightly biased in my attitude toward them by the opinion of Zira and her fianc6, who detest them, as do all the chimpanzees. Moreover, they are equally despised by the gorillas, who laugh at their lack of initiative but who exploit them for the benefit of their own schemes. Almost every orangutan has behind him a gorilla or a council of gorillas who support him and maintain him in an honorable post, seeing to it that he is granted the titles and decorations that are dear to his heart—until the day he ceases to give satisfaction. Then he is dismissed without mercy and replaced by another ape of the same species.
There remain the chimpanzees. These seem to represent the intellectual element of the planet. It is not an idle boast that all the great discoveries have been made by them, as Zira first told me. This is a slightly exaggerated generalization, for there are a few exceptions. In any case, they write most of the interesting books and on a great variety of subjects. They seem animated by a powerful spirit of research.
I have mentioned the sort of works the orangutans produce. The unfortunate thing is, as Zira frequently deplores,

they thus write all the educational books, propagating grotesque errors among simian youth. Not long ago, she assures me, these school textbooks still stated that the planet Soror was the center of the world, although this heresy had been rejected long before by every ape of even mediocre intelligence; and the only reason for this was that there once existed on Soror, thousands of years ago, an ape of considerable authority called Haristas who held such beliefs and whose dogmas have been repeated by the orangutans ever since. It is easier to understand Zira's attitude toward me now that I have learned that this Haristas believed that apes alone can have a soul. The chimpanzees, fortunately, have a far more critical mind. In the last few years, it seems, they have embarked on a regular campaign to disparage the old idol's axioms.


As for the gorillas, they write very few books, and these are noteworthy more because of their appearance than their subject matter. I have glanced through some of them, and remember their titles: The Need for Sound Organization as the Basis of Research, The Benefits of Social Politics, or The Organization of the Large Man Hunts on the Green Continent. These works are always well documented, each chapter being written by a specialized technician, and contain diagrams, tables, and sometimes attractive photographs.
The unification of the planet, the absence of war and military expenditures—there is no army, only a police force—strike me as being factors that would foster rapid progress in every realm of the simian world. This is not the case. Although Soror is probably slightly older than the Earth, it is clear that the apes lag behind us in any number of ways.
They have electricity, industries, motor cars, and airplanes, but, as far as the conquest of space is concerned, they have reached only the stage of artificial satellites. In pure science I think their knowledge of the infinitely great and the infinitely small is inferior to ours. This backwardness is perhaps due to mere chance, and I have no doubt they will catch up with us one day, when I consider their capacity for application and the spirit of research shown by the chimpanzees. In fact, it seems to me they have been through a dark period of stagnation that has lasted a very long time, far longer than with us, and have only recently entered an age of considerable achievement.
This spirit of research, I must once again point out, is directed principally in one direction: the biological sciences and in particular the study of ape, man being the instrument they use to this end. The latter thus plays an essential, albeit rather humiliating, part in their existence. It is lucky that there is a considerable supply of men on their planet I have read a paper proving there are more men here than apes. But the number of the latter is on the increase, whereas the human population is falling off, and already some scientists are anxious about future supplies for their laboratories.
All this does not explain the secret of simian evolution. On the other hand, perhaps there is no mystery about it. Their emergence is no doubt as natural as our own. Yet I cannot entirely accept this idea, and I now know that some of their scientists also consider that the phenomenon of simian ascendency is by no means clear. Cornelius belongs to this school, and I believe he is seconded by the keenest brains. Unaware of where they come from, who they are, or where they are going, they no doubt suffer from this lack of knowledge. Might it not be this feeling that inspires them with a sort of frenzy for biological research and that gives such a special slant to their scientific pursuits? My nighttime meditation concludes with these questions.



Share with your friends:
1   ...   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   ...   38




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page