In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first Tarzan book; TARZAN OF THE APES, there is a moment…
The novel’s not well-written. It may Burroughs’ best, but it’s not good. There are holes in the plot that could swallow houses. I, of course, love it. It’s imaginative. It’s exotic. Hangin’ out with apes…what’s not to love? It’s like eternally living in Animal House, or tailgating seven days a week and never having to actually go to the game.
But there’s this moment…
Tarzan is beginning to fathom that he’s not an ape, but a man…whatever that is. He’s been raised by apes. He lives as an ape. He’s not sure of the difference but he’s aware there’s a difference. His closest companion, an ape, is killed by a man. Tarzan stalks the killer, is attacked, and slays the man.
He’s hungry. This slain man…is he available for consumption? Is he different from a slain boar? If Tarzan is a man…does man eat man?
“Alas, not knowing, he stays his hand and lowers the man to the ground.”
Summer spent as an intern at an outdoor theater, meant unpaid servitude. A day of preparing breakfast, attending classes, assisting rehearsals, singing to diners, setting up chairs, preventing attendees from falling into the fire pit, and listening to the terminally tedious curtain speech was behind me and there was still twenty minutes or so of sunlight for the other interns and me to sneak off to the nearby pool house.
I recall a young lady from another state, her eyes at half-mast, purring; “I could use a Coke. If you could get me a Coke, I could be real good.”
Was that an invitation?
Was that consent?
In 1968 what the hell did “consent” mean and why should I care?
All I knew was I was on fire with a mission. I pity anyone who got between me and a Coke at that moment. I acquired the Golden Fleece and presented that fizzy Holy Grail to the damsel in need.
…not knowing, he stayed his hand…
The arts, even the cheap, poorly written arts, can be powerful reinforcements for our better angels.