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An All-Encompassing Love between a Human and a Chimp

Posted April. 29, 2005 23:41,   


Dani/Written by Kim Yong-kyu and Kim Seong-kyu/436 pages 11,000won/ Published by Jian

In 1963, behavior psychologist Stanley Milgram experimented with human psychology under the topic of the “behavioral study of obedience.” He gave participating adults and students each a task, instructing the adult to question the student playing the victim and to press an electrocution button for incorrect answers.

In reality, electricity did not flow. Milgram notified students beforehand to act out being electrocuted each time the voltage increased. The experiment revealed that most adults did not quit the experiment partway through, but instead continued to the end. They silently observed the tortured students and even appeared to find enjoyment in watching. This experiment shows how easily human violence falls accomplice to orders and how it is determined by its environment.

The novel “Dani” seeks out the core of human violence in Milgram’s lab results. In a nutshell, human violence emerges due to the environment. As a cultured novel, this book explores nearly 60 natural and social science theories from naturalist Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” and psychologist B. F. Skinner’s “behaviorism” theory to ecologist Conrad Lawrence’s “instinctive aggression of animals” principles to demonstrate discourse concerning violence, which excites the readers’ mental curiosity.

The book’s heroine, Jennifer Morgan, is an animal behaviorist in Tanzania who teaches chimpanzees sign language. Surrounding her is a horizontally divided forest inhabited by various groups of chimps. Jennifer becomes friendly with a female chimp, “Dani,” while conducting research in the sparsely populated west forest. One day, a developer named Wesley Kyung cuts down the east forest, and homes to chimpanzees disappear. In order to survive, the chimps of the east forest transgress to the west, and begin to slaughter the west chimpanzees, including Dani. Here begins Jennifer’s desperate struggle to save the chimpanzees.

The author illustrates the origin of human violence and its breeding grounds through the genocide, the mass slaughter between identical species, of chimpanzees.

This novel juxtaposes “genetic determinism,” which states that human behavior, including violence, is the result of genes, and “environmentalism,” which denotes the environment as a determining factor in human behavior. “Instinctivism,” the belief that the “might makes right” mentality and violence is a human instinct, and “behaviorism,” which insists that violence is learned and reinforced through acquired study, are also discussed.

The author suggests the heroine Jennifer and her primate buddy Dani’s species-transcending love as an answer. Jennifer cries out that “all creatures are connected and loved, and this means our destinies are one,” and asserts that someday, human good, intolerant of justifying violence, will conquer. She is a character who shows the altruistic aspect of human nature, the antipode of the violent human.

The continuous explanations of psychological and biological theories in the book, along with the history of mankind genocide such as the racial wipeout of Kosovo and the Holocaust, as well as adding a spice of fiction with fact, all maximize the perks of this Faction genre. However, pedagogic excerpts overly expounding the knowledge to readers are, unfortunately, a fault to this book.