Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Gorillas in the Mist is a popular account of Dian Fossey’s research and her other experiences while studying mountain gorillas in Africa. The book, consisting of a first-person narrative and descriptive passages, is divided into twelve chapters. In some cases, a chapter follows the history of a particular gorilla group or an extended patriarchal family. This approach results in some overlapping between chapters, since some described events involve more than one group of gorillas.

Fossey went to Africa in December, 1966, as a protégé of the famous anthropologist Louis Leakey and under the sponsorship of the Wilkie Foundation and the National Geographic Society. The first chapter describes her attempts to study the gorillas from a base camp in Zaire, in the Virunga Mountains. The work was interrupted when Fossey was evacuated by soldiers during a rebellion. She reestablished contact with some of the same gorillas from a new base camp in Rwanda, in the Parc des Volcans.

Two chapters give general impressions of the terrain, ecology, wildlife, native people, and gorilla populations around the Karisoke camp in Rwanda. Six chapters follow several gorilla groups, giving descriptions of intergroup and intragroup social relationships, individual characteristics, migrations, nest making, feeding behavior, play, sexual activities, contents of feces, births and deaths, development and care of infants, vocalizations, aggression, curiosity, illnesses and injuries, changes in group composition, and the...

(The entire section is 626 words.)