About the Author
Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) was a naturalist, zoo keeper and conservationist author. He was born in Jamshedpur, India on 7 January , 1925. His family settled in Corfu. Since his boyhood he had been an ardent observer of wildlife. He was the fourth and the youngest child of Louisa Florence Dixie and Lawrence Samuel Durrell both of whom were born in India of English and Irish descent. Durrell’s father was a British engineer. Durrell, founded what are now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Park on The Channel Island of Jersey in 1959. He wrote a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast.
He has related his experiences in the trilogy beginning with My Family and Other Animals, and continuing with Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of God. Durrell Trust is an international charity with a mission of saving species from extinction, especially those animal species that are under the threat of extinction. His Trust copes with the increasingly difficult challenges of zoo, wildlife and habitat management.
About the Story
The story underlines the idea that zoos must be used for contributing to the conservation of the wildlife. The author (the narrator) gives an account of his efforts in procuring a gorilla for his zoos. He has to approach many rich men to collect twelve hundred pounds for a male baby gorilla. He keeps the gorilla in his guest room before he shifts the animal to the zoo. Not only does he treat him affectionately he also takes care to provide this grown-up gorilla named N’Pongo with a female mate named Nandy.
Such creatures are treated as members of his family. All efforts are taken to attend to them in case they are injured or fall ill. The behaviour and antics of the baby gorilla N’Pongo and his female mate Nandy have been keenly observed and described so vividly that the two seem to be members of a human close-knit family . The author spares no pains in providing essential medical care to N’Pongo when he suffers from some abdominal trouble. Animals, birds and other creatures should be properly taken care of if we have to preserve ecology. Animals must be treated nicely in the zoos which should not be mere showpieces of animals but contribute something towards conservation of wildlife.
The story, written in a simple, straightforward manner is both touching and gripping. It is an effort to make us more sympathetic and affectionate towards animals.
Love for the wildlife : The author who had set up a zoological park felt that the zoos must do something to conserve wildlife. The zoos, he believed, are not mere showplaces of variety of animals for the entertainment of people. His ardent desire, as such, was to replace the commoner animals with the species threatened with extinction. It was at this point when he received a telephone call from an average animal dealer if he wanted a baby gorilla.
Efforts to get the baby gorilla : The gorilla was already high on the author’s list of priorities. So he wasted no time and rang up the animal dealer who demanded twelve hundred pounds for the baby gorilla. The author’s wife Jacquie was not in favour of spending huge amounts on this. The author ignored his wife’s pessimistic and antisocial attitude and consulted his banker friend Hope, who too did not support the author on this issue.
Public Support : The author had full faith in the generosity of the people to come forward and contribute their bit in his mission to acquire a baby gorilla. By contacting a few persons, the author could collect just two hundred pounds. The next person the author contacted was Major Domo who was graciously generous to fund the remaining required amount of one thousand pounds. It was a big relief that he felt in his mission of getting the baby gorilla.
Author’s visit to London to bring baby gorilla : It was a great day when the author flew over to London Airport to collect the ape being sheltered at the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The animal dealer handed over N’Pongo in a crate to the author. Thus N’Pongo walked into the author’s life.
The male baby gorilla : This baby gorilla N’Pongo was about eighteen inches high, quite handsome and healthy. He was quite heavy for his size, with solid bone and muscle. He had thick and soft light-chocolate-coloured fur, soft and glossy skin on his hands, feet and face. His eyes were small and deep-set. His eyes shone with amusement when the author tickled his ribs. The author gave him the banana which he ate daintily. Putting N’Pongo back into the crate, the author went off to catch the place for Jersey.
N’Pongo in the guest room : As the cage for N’Pongo was not yet ready in the zoo, the author decided to keep him in his guest room for some time. N’Pongo’s grave, courteous manner and his rather sad expression immediately won over both Jacquie and the author’s mother. As the author didn’t have a very pleasant experience in keeping Chumley the Chimpanzee in the house, he was very cautious about N’Pongo, though he was charmed by his beautiful behaviour. Although N’Pongo’s behaviour was exemplary , the author did not expect N’Pongo to automatically assume civilized behaviour simply because he was living in the house. Therefore, the guest room, when N’Pongo left it, bore numerous traces of his presence. It looked like a sixteenth-century alehouse months after N’Pongo’s sojourn there. The handle of the door was badly bent and pulled down. There were several marks of discoloration in the room.
N’Pongo’s gentle disposition : N’Pongo’s disposition, good manners and a very well-developed sense of humour made N’Pongo the darling of the zoo. Unlike a baby Chimpanzee who throws tantrums on being locked up in the cage, N’Pongo did not show any such hysterics. Although deploring it, he would accept the necessity of being locked up in the cage. At times his behaviour with the visitors was amusing and astonishing as he would pull some person’s leg and caused him slipped disc.
A mate for N’Pongo : Within a period of twelve months, N’Pongo was almost double in his size. The author felt that N’Pongo must be provided with the company of a female mate. He believed that when an ape or gorilla attains three or four years of age, it is safe to let it enjoy human company only. But if he is eleven or twelve , this may mean a broken leg or a broken neck. He is likely to turn morose if he is deprived the company of his own kind than that of human beings. Taking into consideration all these things, the author went on to procure a wife for N’Pongo. So he once again contacted the same animal dealer to get him a female gorilla. Getting positive implications. On his suggestion, the author struck a deal with the animal dealer and got the female baby gorilla on instalment terms.
The female baby gorilla : Nandy was despatched in a small crate. When she arrived, she appeared to be in perfect condition : her fur was glossy, she was fat, and her skin had a sheen like satin. The author was impressed most by her eyes at first sight. Her eyes were large and lustrous. But they were the eyes of an animal that had no trust or respect for human beings. The author discovered a scar on her skull. It was caused by a big knife thrown by a man while catching her. Naturally Nandy was antisocial and scared of humans.
The two gorillas in the same cage : After keeping Nandy in a separate cage for twenty four hours, she was sent into N’Pongo’s cage. N’Pongo considered all humans his friends, but Nandy was anti-human. When together, Nandy showed belligerence while N’Pongo was behaving mischievously. There was much diffidence shown by Nandy. Their behaviour and antics were astonishing. Both of them inspected each other’s dishes, thinking the other’s had a better one. Although they were different in character, they quite plainly adored one another. N’Pongo was the great giggling clown of the pair, while Nandy was much quieter, more introspective and watchful. It was a great fun to see N’Pongo teasing Nandy who in turn would belabour him with fists.
The narrator’s anxiety about N’Pongo’s health : The author remained anxious about the health and well-being of these both. He felt deeply concerned when he learnt that they were having diarrhoea. He wanted no indiscretion or carelessness to be taken regarding their food, which was of great variety. When he learnt that N’Pongo was indisposed, he took all pains to consult vets and physicians, and gave the best medical aid. It was when he was to be away for three weeks in France for making a film about life in the Camargue. He could sacrifice his visit bout could not leave N’Pongo untreated. So different foods were tried, antibiotics and injections were given to N’Pongo. Slowly his efforts bore fruit. Luckily on the eve of his departure, N’Pongo started showing satisfactory improvements. While in France, that author kept in touch about N’Pongo’s health and steady improvement. It was a big relief to him when on his arrival he found N’Pongo having regained his health and weight.
Conservation of Wildlife : The story brings about the idea that we must make allout efforts to conserve wildlife. Some of the species are rare and threatened. We must make a little contribution to conserve them. The author feels, that the zoos can do a lot in this regard. He says:
(The) zoo must cease to be a mere showplace of animals and start to contribute something towards the conservation of wild life.
According to him, all the zoos must be financed and supported in a way so that they could provide the animals, birds, reptiles their natural habitat as far as possible. The greatest concern in how to preserve the most endangered and rare species and protect them from extinction. The author’s sincere efforts in bringing the baby gorilla in his house overcoming all obstacles by his wife or arranging finances are laudable in this respect.
Attitude towards Animals : Another theme of the story is that animals have their own urges and needs. They wish to have the company of their own species, especially of the other sex. The author in this story succeeds in his search for providing female companion Nandy to the gorilla N’Pongo so that the latter does not go morose or become antisocial. The need for companionship is the basic requirement of men and animals. Treatment of diseases afflicting the animals is vital consideration since the sick animals do not have any other being except humans to nurse them in their sickness. The author takes sincere pains to bring N’Pongo to his normal health by providing him proper food and medicine. All the requirements of N’Pongo are met with by the author. He shows concern, love and affection to N’Pongo in latter’s sickness. He is even ready to cancel his scheduled programme so that he is available to N’Pongo.
The message of the story is that human beings should show concern for the animals and give the animals their natural habitat so that there is wildlife conservation, which is necessary for ecology.
The story conveys the message of love and affection for animals. We need to change our attitude towards wildlife. We should take all steps to conserve wildlife. We must ensure that animals need love and affection. They must be attended to in respect of their urges and needs. Companionship in animal species is equally of great significance . In this story we learn that the author takes interest in providing a female mate to N’Pongo just to avoid his getting morose or losing his liveliness of manners and disposition. When N’Pongo suffers from diarrhoea and later colitis, he is provided best possible treatment and diet.
The author wishes that the zoos should be well-equipped to provide proper habitat to the animals. These zoos should cease to showplaces of animals, but contribute greatly towards the conservation of the wildlife, especially those rare and threatened species – species which are threatened with extinction in the wild state. Let people come forward and donate generously for the upkeep of such animals.
‘A Gorilla in the Guest Room’ is an eye-catching title. We are made curious as to know what it means. How can a gorilla be in one’s guest room. We soon realize, as we read the story, that the gorilla, called N’Pongo , is the hero of this story and is in focus throughout. It is true that a gorilla is not expected to be lodged in a guest room, taking into consideration its lack of civilized behaviour. Its habitat should be elsewhere in some enclosure of a zoo. But keeping a gorilla, a baby gorilla, in the guest room is something out of common. But the author’s decision to keep it in the guest rom before its cage is got ready shows the author’s deep concern for his comforts. We know the author has founded a wildlife park for the conservation of rare species and the gorilla has always been on his top priority. The author treats this gorilla N’Pongo as if he were a human being and leaves no stone unturned to take care of him in his indisposition. N’Pongo’s disposition and exemplary behaviour deserved his stay in the guest room, though later he is shifted into the zoo and is provided with a female companion Nandy. Thus the title of the story is befitting and convincing.
N’Pongo, a male gorilla, plays a central role in the story ‘A Gorilla in the Guest Room’. The author has endowed him with all the good human qualities. The pronoun ‘he’ for him reveals that he has been treated at par with a human being. This also reveals that author’s own attitude towards him in particular, and towards all animals in general.
When N’Pongo came into the author’s life, he was about eighteen inches high. He was quite heavy, for his body was all solid and muscle. There was not a spare ounce of fat on him. His fur, thick and soft, was light-chocolate-coloured. The skin on his hands, feet and face were soft and glossy. His eyes were small and deep-set, twinkling like chips of coal. When the author first saw him, he held his arms up to be lifted up. He investigated the author’s beard. He giggled hoarsely, his eyes shone with amusement when the author tickled his ribs.
N’Pongo was gentle and good-mannered. He took keen interest in his surroundings. When he first entered the zoo, he took a great interest in the cows passing around. He had grave and courterous manners, rather a sad expression on face. All these won him over both Jackie, author’s wife, and his mother. Being a keen observer, N’Pongo surveyed the sofa and examined everything in the room. The author found his behaviour and manners exemplary. It was on account of his decent behaviour that everybody loved him and the author and others of his family decided to keep him in the guest room itself. All the same, being just a baby, perfectly civilized behaviour could not be expected of him. So the guest room, when he left it, bore numerous traces of his presence, besmeared with raspberry juice and other eatables. The floor of the room, as the author puts it humorously, looked like a sixteenth century alehouse. The door handle of the guest room stood bent and twisted.
Another very interesting thing about N’Pongo was his compromising disposition and his outlook. He held a different approach to a problem or a situation. As compared to a baby Chimpanzee that throws tantrums when locked up again after being brought out of cage, N’Pongo behaved more resignedly, although deploring being locked up again. He had the grace to accept the inevitable. He would just give a couple of sharp and faintly peevish screams as he saw the author after locking him up. So owing to attractive appearance and disposition, his good manners, and his very well-developed sense of humour, N’Pongo was in a very short space of time the darling of the zoo. He would play antics before the visitors. Sometimes a photographer trying to have a snap would suffer a slip disc because of N’Pongo’s sudden movement.
Within twelve months N’Pongo almost doubled his size. He became such a fearfully extroverted character that he obviously considered he was the only gorilla in the world and all human beings were his friends. Compared to him, Nandy was sullen and anti-human. She was belligerent in her temperament. When together in the same enclosure, she would belabour N’Pongo with her fists while N’Pongo played practical tricks on her.
N’Pongo behaved like a normal human. He was fond of delicious and succulent fruits and vegetables. But when he was indisposed he lost his appetite. His giggling exuberance was gone. His powerful body grew gaunt. He suffered first from diarrhoea and then colitis. His indisposition caused a lot of concern to the author, who consulted vets and physicians to bring N’Pongo back to normal health. The author could sacrifice his visit just in order to be readily available to N’Pongo in his sickness. It was after a lot of efforts that N’Pongo was restored to health with injections, antibiotics, etc. He was treated entirely as affectionately and carefully as any human by his own family.
Nandy, the second gorilla in the story, was brought to the zoo to fulfil the needs of the male gorilla N’Pongo as a mate. Unlike N’Pongo, she was not very lively and amiable. She was bought from the same animal dealer who provided N’Pongo to the author. When Nandy arrived, crouched in a very small crate, she looked to be in perfect condition. Her fur was glossy, she was fat, and her skin had a sheen like satin, but at first sight of her it was her eyes that impressed the author most. As compared to N’Pongo’s eyes, which were small and deep-set, calculating and full of humour, Nandy’s eyes were large and luminous. But they were frightened eyes, the eyes of an animal that had little experience of human beings.
She had no trust in human beings. There was a reason behind this. Right across the top of her skull was a scar which was about six or seven inches in length. Obviously, when she was being caught, some vary rash and overenthusiastic young man had given her a blow with a knife which split her scalp like a razor slash. Naturally, she could not be blamed for being a little antisocial. This great slash was b now completely healed, and there was only the long white scar to be seen through the hair of her head.
Her fear of human beings remained unabated. So when she was kept near N’Pongo, she envinced little interest in him. She had a woebegone, frightened face that one might long to pick her up and comfort her. But having been deeply hurt, she would not appreciate such a kind gesture. When put into the cage occupied by N’Pongo, she remained thoroughly distrustful of him. Her eyes darted to and fro with a curiously suspicious yet belligerent expressions on her face.
Nandy was very conscious of her rights and self-respect. When N’Pongo pulled a handful of her hair, she showed her indignation and disapproval by baring of her teeth and her grunt. As the author humorously remarked that she looked like a thwarted suffragette on seeing N’Pongo sleeping on his wooden shelf while she curled up on the floor. She could claim her lost position and room as enjoyed by N’Pongo with her attitude.
Although Nandy differed greatly from N’Pongo, both quite plainly adored each other. Whereas N’Pongo was the great giggling clown of the pair, Nandy was much quieter, more introspective and watchful. Very soon she began to realize that N’Pongo bullied and teased her without any malice and just out of pure fun. At times, his good-humoured teasing drove her to distraction. But when she reached the limit of her endurance, she would lose her temper. Then with flashing eyes and open mouth she would chase him round the cage while N’Pongo ran before her, giggling hysterically. If she caught him, she would belabour him with her fists while N’Pongo lay on the ground curled up in a ball. As soon as she was tired of trying to make some impression on his muscular boady, she would stalk off to the other end of the cage.
Interesting Story : The story ‘A Gorilla in the Guest Room’ is quite interesting. It develops in the chronological order. It is told by the narrator (the author) in the first person because he himself is an important character in the story.
The story begins with the author getting an offer from an average animal dealer asking the author if he wants to have a baby gorilla. The author, who has already kept the gorilla on his top priority, gets over all the hurdles and brings the gorilla and keeps him in the guest room till he can be shifted to his zoo.
The gorilla N’Pongo grows up, and the author plans to provide him a companion, a female mate, to take care of his inner urges. The female companion Nandy hesitantly comes closer. The behaviour of the two is closely observed.
Just when the author is to go out, N’Pongo suffers from abdominal problem. All care is given to N’Pongo till he is fully recovered. Only then does the author leave to attend his important conference.
Narrative Style : The story is narrated by the author in a lucid, simple and direct way. His description of the baby gorilla N’Pongo and that of female baby gorilla Nandy is so graphic that the two appear very much like human beings living like ordinary civilized couple. The behaviour and manners of the two in different situations is lively. The writer’s sympathy and concern for N’Pongo in providing him a mate or in treating him in his indisposition are evident. There is an element of suspense and romance. The coming together of N’Pongo and Nandy in the same enclosure is described romantically. There is a great element of humour in the description of the guest room after N’Pongo had left it : Look at the way N’Pongo traces left behind are described in the extract below.
On one wall, for instance, was something that resembled a map of Japan drawn by one of the more inebriated ancient mariners. This was nicely executed in scarlet and was due to the fact that I had thought N’Pongo might like some tinned raspberries.
The comparison between N’Pongo and Nandy has been lively, as is clear from the following:
Although they were so different in character, they quite plainly adored one another. N’Pongo was the great giggling clown of the pair, while Nandy as much quieter, introspective and watchful.