Tarzan is a fictional character who was adopted and raised in an African jungle by a group of apes after his parents died while being marooned in the jungle.
When he is a young adult, Tarzan meets and falls in love with a woman known as Jane Porter after she and her father together with other explorers arrive from England to explore the jungle in Africa. In the movie, Tarzan is faced with the task of living in the jungle with his adopted parents or following Jane to England in the hopes of starting a civilized life.
Love plays an important role in this movie because it is from Jane’s love that Tarzan begins to feel that he is different from his adopted family and it is his love for his adopted family which plays an important role in determining whether he will stay or leave the jungle.
The main objective of this essay will be to evaluate the context of Tarzan’s decision to choose to live with the apes over the humans he had begun to love. This will involve reviewing important parts in the movie to gain an important insight of how Tarzan came to make his decision of choosing the apes over the human beings.
It will also involve evaluating whether love (Tarzan’s love for his adopted family and for Jane Porter) played an important role in determining whether Tarzan would stay or leave the jungle for England. Assessing Tarzan’s decision and the context in which it occurred is important as it provides an important argument for this essay.
Context of Tarzan’s Decision
Lima and Buck who were the directors of Tarzan the movie which was done in 1999 provide an in-depth background of the myth behind the fictional character of Tarzan. The 1999 version of Tarzan pursues the question of why he is threatened by anyone else who is different from him given that this movie portrays him to be less confident than his fictional character.
It can also be observed that this movie has mostly focused on how Tarzan is different from his adopted family and how this difference plays an important role in determining his choice of staying or leaving the jungle.
The differences in his parentage and how he was brought up in the jungle especially become predominantly clear when he meets Jane Porter, her father Professor Porter and the other explorers who accompanied them to the jungle (Tarzan).These notable differences become important to Tarzan because he is able to connect with Jane on a human level after she teaches him how to speak in English.
His human association with Jane allows him to develop feelings of love and other emotions which he had mostly shared with his adopted family and friends in the jungle. These feelings also bring out the human side of him given that he was raised as an ape by his adopted family meaning that he behaved and communicated like an ape.
In the movie, Tarzan compares himself with his adopted mother, Kala where he realizes that he is indeed different. Even on meeting other human beings (Jane, her father and other explorers) he still feels different because his life experience is not the same as theirs which is mostly attributed to the fact that he was raised by gorillas in the African jungle. He has a gorilla mother and father, Kala and Kerchak, with most of his friends being animals.
Tarzan realizes that his way of life is very different from that of the human kind which at evidently makes him feel like the proverbial outsider (Tarzan). These differences play a big role in shaping Tarzan’s decision of whether he will continue to live in the jungle or leave with Jane to begin a civilized life in England.
In the movie, Jane and her hunter-guide Clayton, begin to teach Tarzan how to speak the English language and also how to conduct himself in front of other human beings. They teach him various aspects of the human world after which they try to convince him to leave his gorilla family in the jungle and move to a human society.
Jane and Clayton however have a hard time trying to convince Tarzan to lead them to his gorilla family because Kerchak dislikes human. His reluctance means that he does not want any harm coming to Jane or the other explorers when they meet Tarzan’s family.
It can therefore be said that at this point in the movie, Tarzan has already began to develop emotional ties to his new human friends because he does not want any physical harm coming to them (Tarzan).
When the boat used by Jane, her father Professor Porter and the other explorers’ returns, Clayton tries to convince Tarzan to show the other explorers his adopted family in the hope that Jane will stay with him in the jungle to which he agrees. This however does not go as planned as Kerchak returns with a vengeance ready to destroy the humans after seeing Clayton threatening to kill his gorilla family with a rifle. The confrontation sees the human group escaping and Kerchak leaving the gorilla troop because of his actions.
Kala is forced to take Tarzan to the tree house where she found him revealing his past to him and also where he came from. This is the most important part of the movie because it is in this scene that Tarzan learns he is indeed different from his adopted parents.
Any doubts he had about how different he was from his mother, father and jungle friends are revealed by his mother and he is therefore faced with the decision of continuing his life in the jungle or leaving with Jane and the other explorers to England to start a new life as a human (Tarzan).
After showing him his past, Kala encourages Tarzan to go with Jane to London so that he can live properly as a human being. Tarzan agrees to leave with Jane and the other explorers ready to leave his jungle family and jungle behind. The revelation that his mother made about his ancestry and roots makes him understand that he was not born to live in the jungle but as a human being within a civilized society.
Unfortunately, as they are preparing to sail away, they are ambushed by a group of pirates who have been paid by Clayton who intends to sell them in England. Tarzan and a group of gorillas are locked in the hull of the ship while Clayton goes to raid the jungle and capture more gorillas including his adopted family (Tarzan).
Tarzan is eventually rescued by his animal friends Terk and Tantor and enlists the help of various jungle animals to scare away Clayton and his men from capturing and imprisoning more gorillas (Tarzan). The significance of this scene to Tarzan’s decision is that his despite his human heritage, his adopted family was being threatened by Clayton and his hired hands and he had to do something to protect them.
Even though he had chosen to leave the jungle family, he still loved them and it is this love which compelled him to run back and try to save his family from being captured and imprisoned by Clayton.
Kerchak who was away eventually returns during the rescue mission and is fatally shot by Clayton which compels Tarzan to kill him. During his last moments, Kerchak tells Tarzan that he accepts him as his adopted son after spending most of the time in the movie rejecting him because Tarzan is a human being.
Kerchak makes Tarzan the official leader of the gorilla troop meaning that he has to lead and protect them from any dangers posed to the troop by other jungle animals. This makes it impossible for him to leave the jungle and his adopted family even when Jane informs him that they will be leaving the following day.
Tarzan’s decision therefore becomes difficult especially in this scene of the movie. He has to analyze everything that has happened ever since the day he met Jane and determine whether the past events have any significance to his staying or leaving the jungle (Tarzan).
Tarzan is faced with the decision of leaving his family in the jungle and going with Jane to London or staying behind as the new clan leader and letting go of his new found love, Jane. He eventually decides to stay in the jungle continuing his position as the new troop leader signifying that he is ready to let go of Jane and any hopes of leading a civilized human life in London.
After learning that Tarzan has no intentions of leaving his jungle home and gorilla family, Jane boards the ship with her father and the other explorers who came to the jungle with them. But before the ship sails away, Professor Porter tries to convince his daughter to stay behind with Tarzan, the man she loves because she is obviously distraught by his decision to stay.
Her father’s encouragement sees Jane jumping overboard and swimming to shore so that she can be together with Tarzan. In this movie, they live happily ever after in the jungle where Tarzan remains with his gorilla family and with Jane meaning that he has two different worlds combined into one (Tarzan).
In the context of this movie, Tarzan’s decision to remain behind is the right choice given the responsibility his adoptive father gave him as the leader of the gorilla troop. Had he decided to leave the jungle, Tarzan would have been partly sad because of his separation from his adopted mother, Kala and because of the separation from his jungle home and way of life.
He would also have been unhappy if he left because he would have been running away from his obligation as the troop leader, a responsibility given to him by his adopted father, Kerchak when he was dying. Tarzan was ready to sacrifice his love for Jane to honor his new obligations and responsibility.
Kerchak’s admission that he accepted Tarzan as his son also cemented his decision further as he was now compelled to honor his father’s last dying wishes. Jane was however not ready to let go of the love she had for Tarzan which prompted her to return to the jungle and live with him.
Her father’s encouragement also played a major hand in her staying with Tarzan because as much as she loved her father she also loved Tarzan which made leaving the jungle difficult for her. She chooses to stay with Tarzan because she knew that her father would understand her decision given that he was the one who encouraged her to go.
The movie basically highlighted Tarzan’s decision with regards to his life after knowing who he was and what world he belonged to. Despite the inherent differences between him and his gorilla family, Tarzan chose to remain behind as their leader giving up his love for Jane and also any hint of pursuing a civilized life with her in London.
His decision was however solidified to be right when Jane decided to live with him in the jungle giving the movie a happily after ending.
Tarzan (Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Dir.) Tarzan: 1999. Walt Disney Productions, DVD, 1999.