Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

This study is divided into nineteen sections, each organizing information from notes by Jane Goodall and her students, colleagues, and Tanzanian associates, supported and broadened by references to other studies. The initial sections provide a history of human-chimpanzee contact, a study of the chimpanzee mind, and a justification of study in the wild with limited human interference. A description of the Gombe habitat, the field methods employed there, and the basic chimp-observer relationships follows, then a who’s who of chimpanzees from the one chimpanzee community observed close-up and a detailed report of behavior studied. This report is divided into sections on demographic changes, communications, the nature of chimpanzee society, relationships, ranging patterns, feeding, hunting, aggression, friendly behavior, grooming, dominance, sexual behavior, territoriality, object manipulation, and social awareness. These sections include accounts of the particular behavior of individual chimpanzees, sociograms of interactions based on age, gender, and community, and numerous charts and lists to qualify and quantify observations.

The introduction credits Louis Leakey, paleontologist-cum-anthropologist, for helping Goodall begin her studies of Gombe chimpanzees and for providing the intellectual basis for the study: the belief that the uncanny similarities between human and chimpanzee brain and social behavior suggest divergence from a common evolutionary stock, and therefore that a knowledge of chimpanzee life and behavior amid the animal’s natural habitat could provide clues to the behavior of early humankind, whose milieu was far closer to that of wild chimpanzees. Goodall discusses the...

(The entire section is 696 words.)