For those who love animals, The Elephant Keeper written by Christopher Nicholson is a must. Set in the 18th century, the story happens between a boy called Tom Page and his elephant Jenny, which is metaphorized as a try to climb the Babel between human beings and animals by the Guardian. It’s the belief that human beings and animals can get along well even build friendship.
The story begins in Bristol, a port in England. Jenny and Timothy, two elephants shipped from India, are bought by Tom Page’s employer, Mr. Harrington, who wants to earn money by selling the ivory. Naturally talented with animals, Tom manages the elephants’ food and medicines, rides them like a mahout, and even imagines that he can communicate with them in a private mental language. Having seen the ivory plan impracticable, Mr. Harrington sells the elephants to two different buyers. Standing at the crossroads, Tom chooses to follow Jenny as her keeper but to desert his human girlfriend. They are taken into the household of Lord Bidborough, a kindly Sussex aristocrat who commissions Tom to write his own “True History of the Elephant”, but succumbs to a stroke, leaving both Tom and Jenny at the mercy of his cruel and oafish heir. Jenny is sold several times to move to several places before she and Tom settle in an animal farm in London.
The moving from one employer to the next employer pushes forward the story, making the story a good coherence between each moving. Nevertheless, the plot is secondary to the characters.
The leading roles are obviously Tom and Jenny. Jenny is a magnificent and vivid character. Although Jenny, as an elephant, cannot speak, the author expresses her feelings by Tom’s words, which helps to form a lovely and considerate Jenny in readers’ mind. Jenny gives the book its weight, in every sense. The main human role, Tom, is a three-dimensional character. Firstly, he is a man full of love. Instead of using ankus to train elephants, he treats them as a friend and trains them patiently. Sometimes, he even “talks” to elephants. Apart from telling how well he takes care of elephants, he is also a young man with sexual desire and he almost loses himself in London. Additionally, he experiences mental struggles when he is in a dilemma. One of his employers’ son asks Tom to use Jenny to carry him and another girl he is interested in. When Tom finds the man wants to rape the young lady, he is afraid and doesn’t prevent the violence. However, when the second time Tom finds the childe intends to rape another girl, he steps forward bravely.
The author also creates other characters to represent different people’s attitudes towards the animals. Mr. Harrington, a gentleman who loves animals but he also considers the economic benefits at the same time, represents those who combine taking care of animals and earning money. Peter Paul is the finest person Tom meets, who not only loves Jenny, but also makes efforts to find the other elephant, Timothy, which is the symbol of those who love animals truly. Saunders, a painter, who was in fear of Jenny at first, turns to be friendly to Jenny later, which is the behalf of those who change their minds when they actually get in touch with animals. Mr. Clouse, the keeper of an animal farm and the last employer of Tom and Jenny, is a cruel and indifferent man. He treats animals as tools to earn money, which delegates those who believe human beings are superior to animals and treat them rudely.
Why different people and diverse opinions are shown in this book? The various attitudes of people illustrate that it was a time when attitudes towards nature were in radical flux. We hear of scholars debating whether animals have souls, whether they think and have language in this book, which is a result of mankind exploring ourselves and nature during the Enlightenment. Opposite answers to these questions may lead to opposite treatments to animals. The book is a reflection of people attitudes towards animals in the 18th century.
With the development of society and advancement of people’s conceptions, an increasing number of people have realized the necessity and significance of protecting and respecting animals. We can actually put those questions whether they have souls and languages or whether they can think aside. What we need to recognize now is that both human beings and animals have equal lives and we are part of the nature family.
When it comes to the methods that the author uses, there isn’t a complete sentence that expresses the theme directly and few gorgeous writing skills can be found in this book. Nonetheless, I can still feel the sincere emotions between Tom and Jenny among the words and between the lines. Before I read this book, sometimes, I cannot figure out why some people are quite sad and upset when their loved pets missing. However, after reading the book, I realize that men and animals actually can build a good friendship or even “communicate” though they don’t have the same language.
The book is written for those who love animals but it’s also essential for all people to understand the relations between human beings and animals. For children, they can be educated to build friendships with animals instead of afraid. For those who keep pets, the book conveys the message that we should take care of our pets sincerely instead of abandoning them when we lost interests which is not rare in contemporary society.
You might ask “Is it true that human beings and animals can build such friendly relationships?” However, the author’s experiences add to the convincing of this story. The author, Christopher Nicholson, a writer and a film producer of the BBC, is interested in the nature and has made many high-qualified programs on the theme of the relations between human beings and animals. The documentary he made once won the Pulitzer Prizes. This is one of the factors he can write such a moving story, along with specific statistics.
Though Jenny becomes the queen in the animal farm but the farm is going to be closed unfortunately. What is going to happen to Jenny? How about the other elephant, Timothy? Will they reunite at last? If you are interested in this book, you can find answers in this wonderful book. Recommended by one of my friends, I will also recommend this book to you and to more people.