Superspecies : bears and wolves in Charles G. D. Roberts's short animal stories
Brazier-Tompkins, Kali Shakti
Bears and wolves are large mammalian predators who fill similar biological niches and have acquired similar cultural significance throughout Western history. Although superficial similarities exist between them in Charles G. D. Roberts's short animal stories, Roberts uses anthropomorphism to differentiate between these two species. This thesis uses a historical-cultural approach to provide the context for determining what was known or believed about these animals during Roberts's life and what contemporaneous theories were likely to have influenced Roberts's writing. The present literary analysis of bears and wolves in Roberts's stories shows that the species are primarily differentiated through the degree of anthropomorphism attributed to their individual members. Roberts anthropomorphizes bears more than his other species, and this contributes to the bears’ representation of the positive potential of animality. By contrast, Roberts minimizes anthropomorphization of wolves, who represent the negative potential of animality. In Roberts's work, humans who live in the wilderness must become either bear-like or wolf-like. Those who embrace bears’ positive animal potential are those who belong in the natural world, while those who practice the wolves' negative animal potential are denied a place in the natural order. Humans ultimately prove themselves to be superior animals through their use of technology, but must also demonstrate positive qualities, such as morality, in order to show that they belong in nature. Roberts's binary of animality speaks to a conflict that continues today, between the desire to accept the animality that is part of human nature and simultaneously to deny the baser aspects of that animality.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeVargo, Lisa; McVittie, Janet; Banco, Lindsey; Bartley, William
Copyright DateMay 2010
20th century literature
19th century literature