The correlation of animal death and apocalypse in Irving’s “A Tour of the Prairies” and in George’s “Julie of the Wolves”

I’m interested in the topic of animal death and how it correlates with tragic apocalypse. I always sense that when animal death is described in great detail with intense humanizations, there tends to be an agenda on the part of the author. I find that the author wants to elicit a response from the reader, to either change a worldview perspective or take action, especially to preserve the natural world in its raw, wild state.

I am especially fascinated with the way that this animal death/apocolypse experience is delivered through the package of innocence. Irving sets up his book with an establishment of his character and how he will simply be narrating his stories of life on the prairies, as if he is simply a scientist recording data. What’s more, he states that he has been encouraged to write, therefore disowning any sense that he might have an agenda.

Similarly, I find the format of Julie of the Wolves as a children’s novel intriguing. There is an innocence to a children’s novel – it is a book supposed to be read for pure entertainment for the innocent mind of a child. Even though the protagonist is – technically – an adolescent and even goes through an experience of getting married and almost raped, the book is still considered a children’s book. The book deals with intense environmental and social issues that can be reached to adults through their children who are reading this book.


1. Are animal death and apocolypse linked? And if so, what are the implications of that connection?

2. How do Irving and George effectively communicate the “package” of innocence to their readers?

3. Why is innocence so important in discussing animal death that implies apocolypse?

4. Does the degree of humanization of animals in Irving and George’s text determine the intensity of emotional effect upon the reader? If so, what is that emotional effect and how do Irving and George manipulate this concept?


10 responses to this post.

  1. I find it interesting that a “children’s book” contains such strong content such as implications of rape… I like question 3 the most because although the cause of death might be terrible, the fact that a person has “departed” from Earth seems like a peaceful motion. I would love to see how you elaborate on this issue. I would add this:

    5. In Washing Irving’s depiction of animal death, does this have any implications or can the death be related to the unjust death’s of Native Americans? It seems like there might be a subliminal message there.

  2. Posted by al002 on October 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    This seems like a very focused topic and interested to see how you expand on it. I do like your question “3. Why is innocence so important in discussing animal death that implies apocalypse?” because with the use of innocence and then events like animal death and apocalypse it will be interesting to see the answer. Also the question above would be very interesting to add to your paper. A question I would suggest would be:

    6. Is there a different interpretation of animal death when the audience are children compared to adults?

  3. Posted by kwalley on October 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I find the literary use of animal death very interesting as well and agree that it seems to be used as a major component of the author’s agenda. I find your fourth question very interesting especially in light of the class discussions we have had on the emotional response evoked by animal death. Another question to consider might be:

    7. Why does animal death as a means of survival elicit a withdrawn emotional reaction as opposed to mindless slaughter of animals (like Irving’s hunting of the buffalo)?

  4. Posted by kbudd on October 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Julie of the Wolves is a great reference to use with your paper. It seems completely original with a lot of room for discussion. By using this children’s story and Irving’s work I think you could ask:

    When did man lose their emotional connection with animals/nature?
    Do children have a deeper connection to animals because of a simpler mind?

  5. Posted by lmc908 on October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I like your first question. Maybe you should consider the relationship between the Irving’s representation of the buffalo deaths with the death of the Prairies (a form of apocalypse). Maybe even consider the almost death of the Native American that was almost lynched.

    12. What is innocence and can we find it in death? Why are animals deaths specifically related to the apocalypse trope?

  6. Posted by christys21 on October 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    The idea of rape in the literature and that fact that it was a chidren’s book makes it obvious that the author is appealing to the readers emotions. We see similar use, as you said, when an author puts animal death in the reading.

    One thing you can analyze would be perhaps other levels of strong appeals to emotion found in the literature. What is the author trying to accomplish or bring attention to? What are the animals death representative of?

  7. Posted by yribaf on October 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I think you have chosen a great topic for your paper. I found this question to be the most intriguing: 3. Why is innocence so important in discussing animal death that implies apocalypse?

    This made me think about if innocence is so important to depictions of animal death, then what is the author trying to convey about the person or other animal that kills the animal in the text?

  8. This is a very interesting topic to explore. I especially like your fourth question.
    Another thing to explore is:
    15) The issue of animal death is very complex. Is animal death considered a part of the natural cycle or is it a gross exploitation by humans?

  9. Posted by etrotta on October 28, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I like your topic a lot. The link between animal death and apocalypse is an interesting relationship. I like your 1st question the best. Another question you could ask would be “Are there other steps between over-exploitation and its negative impact on humans or does animal death immediately have impacts on the humans who rely on those animals the most and does that lead to human death?”

  10. I really like question #1. Other than that, we’ve already talked about this topic, so I won’t repeat myself 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: