A Review: Pt. 3, Tarzan Triumphant by Edgar Rice Burroughs

August 1, 2011

 

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#15 Tarzan Triumphant

by

R.E. Prindle

Part 3:

Two Peas And The Pod.

     The ease with which ERB shifts from one complicated subject to another is truly remarkable; no less so in the facility he has for organizing these matters into a few lines or paragraphs.  No one can do this without a firm grasp of his subject matter.  ERB is simply one of the best informed writers of his era.

     In a little less than a page ERB summarizes the Torrio-Capone years in Chicago from the beginning of Prohibition in 1920 while incorporating a fictional history of his character, Danny ‘Gunner’ Patrick.  Patrick as his name indicates is Irish.  He was part of the Dion O’ Bannion gang led bhy Bugs Moran after O’Bannion’s demise in 1924.  According to Burroughs Patrick took part in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

     …but Danny Patrick was ambitions.  For years he had been the right hand of a Big Shot.  He had seen his patron grow rich– “lousy rich” according to Danny’s notion– and he had become envious.

     So Danny double crossed the Big Shot, went over to the other side, which, incidentally, boasted a bigger and better Big Shot, (Al Capone) and was a party to the hijacking of several truck loads of booze belonging to his former employer.

—————-

     Many of the Big Shot’s enemies and several of his friends, had Danny taken for a ride.  He knew the power of the Big Shot, and feared him.  Danny did not want to go for a ride himself, but he knew that if he remained in dear old Chi he would go the way of all good gunmen much to soon to suit his plans.

     Patrick is not not a nice guy, he is definitely not a nice guy.  For my tastes ERB is much too tolerant of a man he describes as a psychopathic killer.  “many of the Big Shot’s enemies, and several of his friends’ implies that Patrick has many, perhaps dozens, of murders to his credit yet Burroughs is going to have Tarzan befriend this guy.

     While O’ Bannion was done in in 1924 by the Capone gang, being succeeded by Moran, ERB seems to telescope the years reversing things so that O’Banion is still alive after the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre– ‘The Day Chicago Died.’  ERB is clearly following and thinking about the situation in Chicago as he says, p. 27:

     (Patrick) knew that sooner or later, the Big Shot woud have a grand funeral with truck loads of flowers and, at least, a ten thousand dollar casket.

     Underworld funrals were prodigious affairs.  There is a certain irony in the fact that Dion O’ Banion ran a flower shop.  As a big crime figure it would be expected that the flowers for those expensive funerals would come from his shop.  Is it any wonder Patrick was taking so many people for a ride.  O’ Banion had a good racket going there.

     Not wanting to be taken for a ride himself Patrick had opted for an extended vacation taking his typewriter with him.  A Chicago typewriter, of course, was a Thompson machine gun.  Tommy gun.  The Chicago underworld qauickly adopted the Tommy gun which was new at the time.  The Tommy made those Dick Tracy comic strips so thrilling.  Although one has come to accept the Chicago hoodlum story as a commonplace if one actually thinks about it the open war between the underworld and legitamate society is so startling that one should be appalled.  ERB  like the rest of his contemporaries seems to have taken the fact in stride even, in his case, making Patrick a hero.

     It is almost as though he made Patrick the dark side of the mild mannered Geology professor, Lafayette Smith.  Or, in other words, himself.  In this series of books from Invincible to Lion Man ERB explores the split or dual personality as examined in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.  Convinced as ERB is that the Animus is represented by two archetypes, whith which I find no difficulty other than it can be three, four or more, in this story as usual he divides the two aspects of the personality between two characters.  Although Lord Passmore who is Tarzan in disguise has a decidedly homosexual feel, which would make four  personalities.

     Lafe Smith is clearly an alter ego of Burroughs. Borrowing from ERB’s own experience he says of Smith, p. 11:

     …Lafayette Smith, A.M., Ph.D., Sc.D, professor of geology at the Phil Sheridan Military Academy.

——————-

     For a school year now, he had been an instructor in an inconspicuous western military academy.

     Here we have ERB as he would like to have been with a string of degrees after his name.  First in this dream life he is a professor of Geoplogy athe Phil Sheridan Military Academy which sounds pretty impressive but then he is mysteriously down graded from a professor to a mere instructor (which ERB was in fact) for a schoolyear, nine months, at an inconspicuous military academy.  Thus fantasy collides with reality.

     Another fantasy, now Smithe was on his way to achieve another cherished ambition, that of going to Africa to study the Great Rift Valley perhaps as ERB himself might have liked to have done but which he never did.

     So ERB has his ego ideals, his Jekyll and Hyde sides going as pals to Africa.  As Tarzan is also an ego ideal we have an actual trinity.  Jekyll and Hyde and what?  God?  David Adams who is a pretty thorough Jungian is mystified by the lack of the benevolent old man in Burroughs’ work who according to Jungian theory should have been there.  This is more htan likely a very involved question but I am going to sugest that possibly characters like Tarzan and John Carter seve in that capacity of Old Man/Jekyll figures while the actual Old Man figures who are betrayers serve perhaps as the Hydelike figures representing his father.

     In real life Burroughs ‘old man’, his father, was a betrayer who had little good to say about his son even to the extent of defaming him to all and sundry.  So, it is possible that ERB split the Jungian benevolent Old Man figure into Jekyll like Tarzan and John Carter and his father into the Hydelike Old Man character.  As he was conflicted with a love/hate relationship with his father it would be easier for him not to mention his father by name.  I offer this interpretation only as a suggestion and do not insist n it, still it is a possible solution to the problem perhaps leading to a full solution.

     You can take the boy out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the boy.  ERB was always fascinated by slang.  Gunner Patrick gives him the opportunity for extensive and amusing word play.  The criminal culture from which patrick comes has what amounts to a patois.  At one point ERB calls it by the French term of argot.  Even though he is pronouncing English words that the English speaking characters can recognize the meanings of  the meaning he attaches to the words  are beyond the comprehension of his auditors.  Thus one has the intersting effect of the cultural clash between two examples of what should be the same culture but is not.

     Of course ERB is in full command of not only both these cultures but seemingly all cultures.  In his zany multi-cultural world he is the Master of Cultures.  I pretend to the succession of ERB.

     Thus disembarking from a ship the bright and dark sides of ERB tramp across Africa in the direction of the Great Rift Valley.  Perhaps like Kitchener they came down the Nile to Khartoum and cut up the Blue Nile to Ethiopia like Samual Baker.  Now Burroughs has to integrate his master alter ego, Tarzan, into the Jekyll and Hyde pair.

     A psychological interpretation is that Tarzan must accept the Hyde of Burroughs’ personality as well as the Jekyll.  Indeed, Tarzan seems to respect the Hyde side much more than he does the clown like but educated Jekyll side.

     As the story is told Tarzan hears the sound of a machine gun and goes to investigate.  Patrick had fired into the bush hoping to hit a lion nosing about the safari camp.  He succeeds in temporarily scaring it away, giving Tarzan time to locate the camp.

     The lion returns.  Imagine this scene.  Patrick with this Tommy gun is standing under the convenient tree, while Smith stands behind him with his nickel paltged .32 that he doesn’t even know how to aim.  Here ERB’s dark side is in command while his incompetent but intelligent bright side is subordinate to the dark.  What does this mean in real life?

     As Patrick fires on the lion the Tommy gun jams leaving both sides of Burroughs’ alter-ego defenseless.  At this time the Master alter ego falls on the lion from the tree killing him and saving the lives of the subordinate alter egos, Patrick and Smith.  Patrick is Irish and the more aggressive while one presumes Smith is English and more passive.  Thus a major theme of Irish and English which runs throughout the corus is here erepresented.  While ERB claimed to be ‘pur’ English he was actually only English on his father’s side while Bennsylvania Dutch, in other words, Rhineland German, and Irish on his Mother’s side.  the Irish surfaces not only here but in the following year when he assumed his Irish ancestral name of John McCulloch to write Pirate Blood.  Also as David Adams points out the killing of the lion puts the seal on the relationship between Tarzan, Smth and Patrick.

     In the same period of time he wrote Pirates Of Venus and Pirate Blood.  Although pirates had figured in his early writing as the Black Pirates of Barsoom and the pirates of Pellucidar unless I’m mistaken this sudden efflorescence of interest in pirates has to do with the ‘pirating’ of Tarzan by MGM.

     While not introducing himself Tarzan peremptorily gives the pair some instruction on how to comport themselves in the jungle then disappers up his tree.

     The next time Tarzan and Patrick meet is a bonding session in which Tarzan accepts Burroughs’ dark side, Patrick.

     Tarzan is squatting on the edge of the cliff observing Capietro and Stabutch in their camp below.  the ground gives way precipitating Tarzan over the edge.  He attempts to save himself by grabbing the chance tree growing out of the cliff face- the chance tree- even here Burroughs equates trees with safety- but the tree gives way.  Tarzan falls through the grass roof of a hut landing safely.  He is imediately engulfed by the goons of Capietro.

     Now, having lunch under another tree not too far away, yards actually, is Gunner Patrick.  HIs attention called to the Ape-man who he had previously not noticed he gets up to investigae.  Aiding Tarzan he lets loose with a blast from the Thompson.  He succeeds in dispersing the crowd as well as Capietro and Stabutch.  this is almost commical:  Tarzan shouts to Patraick to not go away, he’ll be right up.  Good as his word he appears above.

     Now come this very interesting bonding session in which Tarzan accepts Patrick. P. 98:

     The “Gunner” was waiting for him upon the summit of the cliff directly behind the village, and for the second time these strangely dissimilar men met- dissimilar and yet, in some respects, alike.  Each was ordinarily  quiet to taciturnity, each was self-reliant, each was a law unto himself in his own environment; but there the similairty ceased for the extremes of environment  had produced psychological extremes as remotely separated as the poles.

     The ape-man had been reared amidst scenes of eternal beauty and grandeur, his associates the beasts of the jungle, savage perhaps, but devoid of coarse, petty jealousy, treachery, meanness and intentional cruelty; while the “Gunner” had known naught but the squalid aspects of scenery defiled by man, of horizons grotesque with the screaming atrocities of architecture, of an earth hidden by concrete ans asphaltum and littered with tin cans and garbage, his associeates in all walks of life activated by grand and petty meannesses unknown to any but mankind.

Now, Burroughs signed his contract with MGM on April tenth of 1931 while he didn’t finish Triumphant until May twentieth so had forty days in which to realize his mistake.  If he did realize his error so quickly it might acount for some of the misanthropic bitterness in the above passage and elsewhere.  Filching his character would certainly be considered a grand meanness.  On the other hand his misanthropic interpretation was a continuation of his longstanding dislike of mankind and civilization.

It is of interest that both Patrick and Tarzaqn have killed many men.  Some of Tarzan’s kills, quite frankly, verge on the psychopathic.  I can’t get over how he literally ripped a man’s head off his shoulders in Ant Men.  Of course, he may have merely underestimated his strength being a fourth his size but having his full sized strength.

Nevertheless both are laws unto themselves in their own domains so  theoretically they do as they please.  Still, and I don’t know how to interpret this, ‘the extremes of environment had produced psychological extremes as remotely separated as the poles.’  I’m clear on Patrick’s extreme but I’m not sure which extreme Tarzan represents.

These extremes were caused by the differences in the environments of the two men.  Tarzan was raised amongst beauty , while Patrick was raised amongst squaor.  As Burroughs roamed over Chicago, and it seems certain he searched out nooks and crannies, he was appalled byh the ‘screaming atrocities of architecture’.  Chicagoans have been quite proud of their architects and architectures so Burroughs critique is quite different.  The paving over of the environment bothered him as much as it does me.  We no longer see the tin cans and bottles but the dumping of garbage wherever by certain people still goes on.

Tarzan was raised among the ‘noble’ beasts while Patrick was raised essentially among thieves and cheats.

Still, invironment aside both men had many kills or murders to their credit.  Seems like a double standard to absolve Tarzan while condemning Patrik especially since each is obviously a product of their environment while neither therefore is inherently good regardless of their environment.

Perhaps Tarzan kills only for just reasons, of his own reckoning as he is a law unto himself, while patgrick kills for gain is where the difference lies.   Perhaps that is the difference between constituted society and the criminal world.  There are times when the most mild mannered and best of men and women must kill, whether in the individual or collective sensel.  Burroughs brings this out when Lafe Smith attempts to liberate Lady Barbara and Jezebel from the Midianites.  As he faces the Midianites with his .32 a cultured English voice comes down from the cross telling him that he is goint to have to kill someone if he and women wish to survive.

Perhaps this scene isn’t just entertainment but Burroughs relating a hard fact of life.  No matter how good you may be a situation in life will appear when you will have to do that which goes against evrything you believe if you wish to survive.l  Such is the West’s situation in the world today; commit suicide yourself or shoot to kill.  Sometimes it comes down to that; left multi-culturalism or no.

This scene may be a very important psychological moment for ERB.  There is wry truth in Tarzan’s next utterance to Patrick:  “‘ A machine gun has its possibilites,’ the ape-man said with the flicker of a smile.'”

Perhaps ERB is in some midlife evaluation.  The scene with his alter-ego Smith’s entry into Midian is laden with symbolism also.  Let’s see how Burroughs handles that as he and Fate continue to weave the warp and woof of this remarkable tapestry to bring out the pattern.

Continued in Part 4: Lafe Smith, Born Again.

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