Planet of the Apes Essay - Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Planet of the Apes Analysis

Pierre Boulle

Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Planet of the Apes Analysis

Readers of this novel who have only seen the 1968 film version starring Charlton Heston will be pleasantly surprised by the relative subtlety of the society that Pierre Boulle limns. Even though the metaphors are occasionally strained, obvious, or both—the planet’s surface is described as “green grass reminiscent of our own meadows in Normandy,” Nova’s vocalizations sound like the cry of “young chimpanzees”—Boulle’s parallels are rarely unreasonable.

The most problematic aspect of the book is its relationship with science and scientists. While this book is Boulle’s major foray into science fiction, little attention is paid to scientific knowledge, even as it was in 1960. The exception—the difference between subjective time on the ship and time passage in the universe, so that while Merou’s experiences only take him about three years, nearly seven hundred years pass on Earth—also serves the narrative purpose of allowing apes to have evolved on Earth.

Boulle disregards science whenever it might conflict with the story. The planet on which Merou’s party lands, especially the descriptions of its orbit and its climate, are improbable at best. Even more doubtful is the likelihood that Merou and Nova would be able to procreate. In each case, however, the reader should willfully suspend disbelief; the center of this novel is social conceits, not scientific veracity.

The portrayal of the scientists themselves is...

(The entire section is 543 words.)