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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 187

In the Lives of Animals, the South African novelist J. M. Coetzee takes on the narratorial persona of the academic Elizabeth Costello in order to discuss the ethics and philosophies surrounding the rights of other animals and the nature of human behavior toward them. Since The Lives of Animals is not a traditional novel, it does not contain many characters in the way that a traditional novel might. The protagonist is Elizabeth Costello, a well-known novelist. She has a son, John Bernard, who is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the fictional Appleton College; John's wife is named Norma. Norma is also an academic, albeit an unemployed one: she holds a PhD in philosophy, specializing in the philosophy of mind. Elizabeth's lecture is introduced by Elaine Marx of the English department at Appleton College. The president of Appleton is named Mr. Garrard, and his wife is Olivia Garrard. Elizabeth has dinner with them and some other professors at Appleton, including Ruth Orkin (psychology), Mr. Wunderlich, a dean named Arendt, and Thomas O' Hearne (philosophy). Later, Elizabeth receives a note from a poet named Abraham Stern.

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