Tarzan Of The Apes Summary

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan Of The Apes

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Tarzan Of The Apes Summary

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Tarzan of the Apes (1912) is a classic novel by American author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The novel tells the story of the boy Tarzan being raised by apes in the African jungle. The novel is the first in a series two dozen books about Tarzan. As a man, he encounters humans again when an expedition of white men comes into the jungle.

In 1888, John Clayton II and his wife Alice get marooned in a jungle on the coast of West Africa. After a mutiny on the ship, they put ashore with all their possessions, along with some food and tools. The young English couple holds the title of Lord and Lady Greystoke. In September of 1889, their son John Clayton III is born. When the baby boy turns one, he loses both his parents. First, his mother dies. Next, his father gets killed by Kerchak, the king of the apes.

A female ape named Kala adopts the infant boy and raises him as her son. Tarzan helps Kala to replace her own dead baby. Kala names him Tarzan, which means “white skin” in the language of the apes. The baby boy is raised as an ape. He learns their language, gains a strong sense of family, and understands the ways of the apes. He becomes a skilled hunter. The strongest among the apes are at the top of the hierarchy.

At first, Tarzan does not know about his human parents. He recognizes that he is physically different from his ape peers. His differences make him feel alienated. Tarzan thinks his differences prevent him from being fully accepted by his peers.

As a boy, he discovers the cabin where he lived with parents. In the cabin, he finds books with pictures of humans. He realizes that there are others like him. Over many years, Tarzan manages to teach himself how to read English so that he can understand the books. He creates primers with pictures. Through his reading, he learns more about the world of humans through the books. Even once he is able to read, he is unable to speak English as he has no memories of hearing it as a baby.

One time, as he is returning home after visiting the cabin, he gets attacked by a huge gorilla. He uses his father’s knife to kill the attacking gorilla. Tarzan survives but is wounded in the battle.

Later in the novel, a tribe of Africans moves into the area where Tarzan lives. Tarzan’s ape mother, Kala, gets killed by a member of the tribe on a hunt. Kala’s death angers Tarzan. To avenge her death, he steals weapons from the tribe during raids. He also plays cruel pranks on them. The tribe believes that an evil spirit is attacking them.

Kerchak, the ape leader, has become jealous of Tarzan. Tarzan has a good reputation among the apes as a skilled hunter. He also gains attention for how he manages to steal from the African tribe. Kerchak attacks him, but Tarzan prevails and becomes the new king of the apes.

Tarzan is not the only human marooned on the coast of West Africa. When he is 20, Tarzan meets humans for the first time when another boat is marooned off the coast. The group includes Jane Porter, the daughter of an American professor. Tarzan is excited to see Jane—the first white woman Tarzan has ever seen. Also on the boat is William Cecil Clayton, who is Tarzan’s cousin. William inherited the Clayton family ancestral estate in England. The party also includes Paul D’Arnot, a French naval officer.

After spying on the group of humans, Tarzan helps them and tries to keep them safe. He rescues D’Arnot from the local African tribe. As Tarzan is rescuing him, a boat has come to save the rest of the castaways. Jane begs the boat to wait for D’Arnot and Tarzan but it leaves without them.

As a form of gratitude, D’Arnot teaches Tarzan how to behave like a man and speak French. D’Arnot learns that Tarzan has fallen for Jane and misses her. He offers to take Tarzan on a journey to the land of the white men. Along the way, Tarzan learns how to behave among civilized people and how to speak English. On the journey, Tarzan brings information from his parent’s cabin to learn more about his identity. D’Arnot is able to help him prove that his name is John Clayton and that he is the Earl of Greystoke.

Tarzan has to travel all the way to Wisconsin in the United States to find Jane. He rescues her from a fire in the woods by swinging through the trees and delivering her to safety. Jane agrees to be married to Tarzan’s cousin, William Clayton. This is just before Tarzan tells Jane his feelings for her. But it is too late. Jane has already agreed to marry another. Tarzan chooses to hide his identity as the Earl of Greystoke and allow his cousin to keep the estate. He also decides to leave so that she can marry William. He does all of this for the sake of Jane’s happiness.