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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 417

In “A Report for the Academy” by Franz Kafka, the main character, a former ape called Red Peter, narrates the story how he became human to the “esteemed gentlemen of the academy.” He says he can't tell them anything new, but he hopes to “demonstrate the line by which someone who was an ape was forced into the world of men and continued there.”

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He was caught by hunters in the Gold Coast. He can't recall exactly what happened, but from the reports he has heard, he thinks he was shot twice—once in the chest and once in the hip—and taken aboard a ship bound for Europe.

His own memory of his capture begins aboard the Hagenbeck steamship, where he remembers waking up below deck in a cage so small that

The whole thing was too low to stand upright and too narrow for sitting down. So I crouched with bent knees, which shook all the time, and since at first I probably did not wish to see anyone and to remain constantly in the darkness, I turned towards the crate, while the bars of the cage cut into the flesh on my back.

He states that he would have died a miserable death if he hadn't worked a way out. He decided that if this was what it meant to be an ape in the human world, “I had to cease being an ape.” Soon, he learned to imitate some of the crew members' behaviors, including spitting and smoking a pipe. The person he calls his "first teacher" taught him how to uncork and drink a bottle of alcohol. By the time he reached Hamburg, he could even talk.

At this point, he says he had a decision to make:

I soon realized the two possibilities open to me: the Zoological Garden or the Music Hall. I did not hesitate. I said to myself: use all your energy to get into the Music Hall. That is the way out. The Zoological Garden is only a new barred cage. If you go there, you’re lost.

By the end, he has achieved enough fame to afford a good standard of living, which includes having his own impresario and a concubine chimpanzee.

On the whole, at any rate, I have achieved what I wished to achieve. You shouldn’t say it wasn’t worth the effort. In any case, I don’t want any man’s judgement. I only want to expand knowledge. I simply report.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 830

Asked by a scientific academy to report on his former life as an ape, Rotpeter responds by saying that his development into a human being during the last five years has erased virtually all memories of his youth in the Gold Coast. In his address to the distinguished gentlemen of the academy, he concentrates instead on his penetration into the human world, where he now feels well established as an accomplished artist in variety shows.

According to his captors, he was shot twice by members of an expedition of the Hagenbeck circus, on the cheek and below the hip. The first wound gave him his name, Rotpeter (“Red Peter”), which he finds distasteful but which differentiates him from a trained ape named Peter that has recently died. He is not at all bashful about showing his second wound to journalists, especially those who claim that he has not completely suppressed his ape nature. In the interest of truth, he believes that he may take down his pants whenever he wishes to reveal his well-groomed fur and the maliciously inflicted wound.

His first memories stem from the time of his captivity in a small cage in the Hagenbeck steamship. Overwhelmed by distress at not having a “way out” for the first time in his life, he was unusually quiet, which was taken as a sign that he either would die soon or could be easily trained. Realizing that he could not live without some kind of way out, he decided to cease being an ape. This solution meant, however, neither escape nor desire for freedom “in all directions,” a quality he...

(The entire section contains 1247 words.)

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