Depiction of animals in P.T. Barnum’s Novel

Throughout his tale, Bob anthropomorphizes the leopards; he believes the female mate of the male leopard he shot is seeking him for revenge. Bob is constantly referred to as a “youth” which seems to highlight his inexperience and naïveté while downplaying and dismissing his assessment of the leopard. This could also mean that Bob will one day value the life of an animal more than he did at this time in his life. Bob will look back on the events in South Africa differently one day and with regret. Bob believes he has overpowered the leopard because as a human he has a greater ability to hold a strong commanding gaze and deems the leopard as “unequal to the test.” He describes her claws as having a “nervous twitch” and believes she cast “furtive glances” at Bob. Bob wants to believe she is “darting her eyes in fear” (21) but the fact the she is advancing upon him demonstrates that clearly she is not afraid. Bob applies the stereotype of women being less than men to animals because he believes that due to her being female she must not be as courageous as a male leopard and seems surprised that she is as “fully courageous as her mate” (21). Bob and his cousin Dick also view the animals as commodities. Bob seems to view the animal as already dead because he would very much like to use her coat as a furnishing earlier when he killed the male Bob was upset that there was not enough time to skin the animal because it would make “a handsome trophy” (17). Dick is happy to hear Bob has killed a male and female because they are parents to some kittens nearby and now Dick can easily take them for the circus without their protective parents in the picture Dick is surprised that the kitten is trying to break free of him and when successful he bemoans the fact the young leopard did not realize he was “well off,” when a life of captivity is not what is best for wild animals. It is odd that Bob believes the leopardess was intelligent enough to seek revenge on behalf of her male but the kittens are too young to realize their parents are gone even though they try to fight off their captors.

Barnum, P.T. “The Wild Beasts, Birds and Reptiles of the World and the Story of Their Capture”. R.S. Peale, 1889.


One response to this post.

  1. The story of this leopard family clearly demonstrates the humans complete ignorance to the subtleties of nature and the capacity of animal abilities. Bob sees the leopards as merely means of entertainment via sport, and commodity for their lovely skin. The fact that they are thrilled by the idea of both parents being killed in order to more easily steal the kittens for the circus demonstrates their absolutely ridiculous notion that humans are the only creatures with the ability to form bonds and relationships. The entire time I was reading the story I was thinking to myself “these humans are so stupid and ridiculous.” It is amazing to me that we are the dominating species on earth and yet have so little understanding and compassion of other inhabitants.

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