In the Shadow of Man Critical Context - Essay

Jane Goodall

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In the Shadow of Man is recognized as a classic in the field of the natural sciences, not only because it depicts a pioneering field study but also because it accomplishes its goals so successfully. Goodall might have chronicled her study only in terms of precise technical observations, aimed at specialists in the natural sciences who would appreciate the enormity of some of her discoveries. Instead, she transforms her data into narrative, so that the book is quite accessible. The result is that a much wider audience can come to appreciate the joys and hardships of this kind of field research, as well as the significance of the chimpanzees themselves. By helping fellow humans to see their own reflections in the behavior of the chimpanzees, Goodall helps them to also see the significance of this animal. Herein lies the success of the narrative.

The result is that In the Shadow of Man is valuable not only to the scientific community but also to those who may not have placed much value on such research or on these animals. The book points out the importance of the natural environment when studying animals, and it convincingly demonstrates that those conceptions that humans form of other animals outside these natural environments are distorted at best. Goodall shakes her readers’ assumptions about how they are to treat and study the natural world; if the book accomplished nothing but this goal, then it would still merit the description of a classic in its field.