The Descent of Man by T. Boyle tentatively aligns with Darwins theory of the origin of species. Boyle presents the difference between the rational aspect in man and the irrational aspect in animals. The scholar aims at establishing the boundary between the mental or the spiritual construct in man and the mental construct in animals. The book is perceived to be satirical to Darwin works in the sense that it presents a humanity where humankind perceives itself to be rationally superior when compared to the other beings of the animal world. It presents the theme of reversion from human to a prelapsarian animality which can be described as a situation that lacks conscience and contains physical abrasiveness. The first sentence of the book is I was living with a woman who suddenly began to stink. Later in the book, the reader realizes that the women, identified as Jane Good, is an employee in a primate center. She works an animal behaviorist whereby she has a close relationship with Konrad, a chimpanzee who appears to be very intelligent. Konrad spends most of his time reading the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Noam Chomsky which are in Yerkish translations. The name Jane Good is perceived to be derived from Jane Goodall who was an ethologist who studied and lived with Chimpanzees in Tanzania while the name Konrad is derived from Joseph Conrad who was an author and popular for his work Heart of Darkness. By associating the names with known characters in regards to the satirical situation, Boyle presents the irrational desires present in the European rational groupings. The story highlights the love squabble that occurs between Jane Good, Horne and Konrad. The narrator who appears to be frustrated with the untidiness and poor hygiene of Jane illustrates her reversion from humankind to the state of animality present in Konrad. The story ends with Horne arriving at Janes workplace to converse with her as Jane has moved from the home that she shares with him to the primate Center. She finds Konrad sexually experimenting with her. Unexpectedly, Konrad who highly intimidates Horne with his primal look, eyes and fur wins the contest in terms of sexual superiority. The satire in the descent of man can be viewed to be in two forms. The first form is that it parodies the idea of rationality and enlightenment in humam beings. The objective of Jane in her experiment with Konrad fails when she becomes sexually attracted to him. Also, Horne fails to employ his rational aspect to explain his girlfriends defection to a being that is not human. It can be viewed that the main message that Boyle presents is that primitive and irrational desires are part of the actions that are present in human beings.
The final story in the book, Drowning, approaches the aspect of animality in human beings from a tragic angle. It can be viewed as a summary of the main message of the book. He feigns from using satire and comedy that are present in the other stories and instead uses a modernistic approach to present the central theme. He uses several angles in presenting his ideas instead of a single approach. One angle is that of a woman sunbathing while nude in an isolated beach. The other angle is that that of a man who finds her and sexually assaults and another angle is that of another man drowning while the assault is taking place. It can be perceived that Boyle presents a parallel association between the assault and the rape to illustrate how man has become irrational such that he is driven by primal and destructive desires. The irrationality is further emphasized when two individuals come across the man raping the women such that instead of assisting her, they also rape her. In other words, mankind has not employed the aspect of rationality to eliminate immoral acts.
Max Apple in the article, Characters in Search of a Difference, explains that the Descent of Man is full of energetic dialect. Apple explains that the book is an illustration of Boyles fixation on the origin of organisms. He asserts, It is this comic-imaginative quest that makes the collection seem so unified. Characters are in search of the differences between man and beast, man and woman, plunderer and hero, art and silliness.
From his perspective, despite the stories exhibiting mere cleverness, Boyle exhibits the ability of being transcendent. He uses the example of the story "A Woman's Restaurant" to illustrate the Boyles sublime nature in presenting his characters. He asserts that Boyle introduces the reader to a narrator who appears to be fixated with a restaurant whose customers are only women. The narrator experiences exuberant imagination as a result of the exclusion with respect to his desire of being part of the society. The narrator finds that he is overwhelmed with femininity instead of the usual aspects of culture and prosperity.
In the Descent of Man Apple explains that Boyle does not exhibit the absence of wit when compared to the stories The Big Garage" and "The Champ" where the cleverness is a bit partial. He states, But the failures are the honest failures of an energetic writer who is willing to try anything.
Apple, Max. "Characters In Search Of A Difference". The New York Times (1979): n. pag. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
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