What is the major theme of The One and Only Ivan? Give two examples to support it.

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major theme of The One and Only Ivan is animal rights, specifically the right of captive animals to retain some measure of their autonomy. The book explores the issue of animal confinement and its consequences through a touching story about Ivan (a silver-back gorilla) and his animal friends at the Big Top Mall. 

Ivan and the animals have to perform for human audiences every day. Besides his show duties, Ivan also draws. His crayon-infused paintings sell at the mall's gift shop for twenty dollars a piece (twenty-five dollars with a frame). During his free time, Ivan watches TV with his friend Bob, who is a dog. Ivan muses that he has been in captivity for nine thousand eight hundred and fifty-five days. At night, he sleeps alone in his cage; there is no where else to go. 

Ivan sometimes wonders if there are other gorillas out there like him. Stella (an elephant) assures him that he will see others in due time. Soon, Mack (the owner of the mall) purchases Ruby (a baby elephant) from a circus. Stella tells Ivan that Ruby's trainers chained her to the floor for twenty-three hours every day. As the novel progresses, we begin to see the suffering endured by animals in captivity. Gently, the author invites us to explore the ethical implications of separating animals from their natural habitats. 

Humans are not complete villains in the story, however. Ruby tells Ivan and the other animals that, although it was "bad humans" who killed her family and sold her to Mack, "good humans" saved her when she fell into a hole in the ground. The story ends with Ivan and Ruby relocated to a zoo, where both animals can live with their own species in surroundings more suited to their inclinations.

Since he has been confined to a cage for years, Ivan initially finds it a challenge to interact comfortably with the rest of his peers. In due time, however, he begins to develop a rapport with the other gorillas. Ivan knows that he still lives in a cage, but in this one, he can move freely and interact comfortably with his gorilla peers. He is no longer lonely and afraid for his future. 

the major theme of the story is animal rights, specifically the right of animals to retain some measure of their autonomy. 

Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan has several interesting themes. One of the most striking themes could be that of “human cruelty, insensitivity and greed”. For example, see how humans kidnap Ivan, a wild and young gorilla, from the jungles of Central Africa for trade. After distancing him from his family, Ivan is sold to Mack who imprisons him in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall for making money. Separation of Ivan from his home is a clear example of human greed, capable of making the audience teary eyed. Humans are shown to be greedy, cruel and barbaric. They are so greedy that they are not bothered about the life and freedom of the poor animals. They do not think twice before destroying animal families. Like Ivan, humans captivated many other animals (like Bob, Stella and Ruby) against their will. Besides this, humans give a poor atmosphere to the caged animals. They are forced to go against their natural instincts and entertain the visitors. The owner gives Ivan crayons and paper sheets not with the intention of making him happy but to make money by selling his artwork, which is a clear example of human greed. Applegate conveys the message that such an act is irrational and against humanity. Human greed leads to violence, destruction, loss and separation.

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The One and Only Ivan

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