Study Guide

The Clan of the Cave Bear

by Jean M. Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear Summary

Introduction

The Clan of the Cave Bear was initially met with reluctance by publishers when Jean Auel approached them with her plan for a series of novels set in prehistoric times. Although meticulously researched, the sheer length of the original manuscript made many publishers unwilling to take the risk on the untried author. Indeed The Clan of the Cave Bear is one of those novels that is either loved or hated.

The story concerns a young girl named Ayla who is orphaned by a natural disaster and then adopted by a group known as the Clan. Ayla is very different from the Clan: physically, she is blond and blue-eyed and the people in the Clan are stocky and dark; she is expressive, sensitive, and smart and they are dour, plodding, and cold. Historians and anthropologists immediately reacted to Auel's book, maintaining that her assumptions about Neanderthal life were not realistic. In fact, Auel seems to be basing her view of the Neanderthal on the racially motivated "bad" science of late nineteenth-century French anthropology. It is precisely this "bad" science and overt racism that has prompted many anthropologists to denounce the novel.

However, the reading public truly seems to enjoy the novel that sold over one hundred thousand copies in the first three months after its publication. The Clan of the Cave Bear is an original work of fiction that explores the world of human beings in prehistoric times. Her novel has even inspired fans to write sequels about the Clan available on the World Wide Web (www.onebridgehome.com/altauel)

The Clan of the Cave Bear Summary (Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

The Clan of the Cave Bear, the first book in Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series, attempts to re-create an Upper Paleolithic (Ice Age) community complete with all its social components, including sexuality. In this prehistoric environment, sexual acts occur in a naturalistic manner—sometimes with violence—without recourse to religious decrees or principles. Numerous censorship conflicts resulted after the book’s publication. In 1993 Tom Baldwin, a trustee of the Moorpark Unified School District in Ventura County, California, attempted to remove it and other Auel novels from the eleventh grade recommended reading list. The book, he maintained, contained “hardcore graphic sexual conduct.” A seven-member committee unanimously defeated his action and Auel’s novels stayed in the high school library. English teacher Peggy Blakelock argued that “the right to read what you want is basic to democratic society.” Earlier, in 1985, parents at a San Antonio, Texas, high school disrupted school board meetings in an attempt to have the novel removed from library shelves.

The Clan of the Cave Bear Summary

Part I Summary

Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear chronicles the story of a prehistoric girl, named Ayla. As the novel opens, Ayla is a...

(The entire section is 332 words.)

Part II Summary

After the disastrous Cave ceremony, life begins to settle down for the Clan. With great difficulty, Ayla learns to speak in the Clan hand...

(The entire section is 379 words.)

Part III Summary

By the time Ayla is nine years old, she has become accepted by many members of the Clan as a medicine woman in training and as a good luck...

(The entire section is 396 words.)

Part IV Summary

The last section of The Clan of the Cave Bear describes the Great Clan Meeting and its aftermath. Once every seven years all...

(The entire section is 440 words.)