A Hunger Artist
Kafka’s Ape, Adaptive Behavior, and Our Status as Humans College
In "A Report to an Academy," the marvelous transformation of the fictional ape Rotpeter offers striking insight into human adaptive behavior, and blurs and then elucidates the differences between man and ape. The short story, written as a letter by Rotpeter, tells of the transition of Rotpeter from his ape existence to that of a human. Rotpeter is regarded as a marvel of nature, his many-thousand year evolution occurring in a mere five. His existence and actions are unique in their own right, and mirror many of the behaviors demonstrated by man. Rotpeter’s process of transformation is reflected, for example, in the adaptation of children to societal norms, or in the assimilation of immigrants into new lands. However, it must be noted that all adaptation entails a corresponding loss of freedom and identity – a baby loses his/her innocence and gains inhibitions once societal acclimation begins, and an immigrant must to an extent give up old culture and customs to commit to adapting to a new one. In many respects, Kafka's ape's thoughts and behaviors mimic human psychological desires, intentions, and choices. But in drawing these pronounced parallels between Rotpeter and mankind, Kafka doesn't bring apes and humans closer...
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