Form and Content

Jane Goodall’s autobiography, In the Shadow of Man, is in some sense two integrated works. It is first the story of Goodall, who, with very little training, began studies at the Gombe Stream—studies that continued for more than thirty years—that represented perhaps the most extraordinary fieldwork ever conducted in the natural sciences. This book tells the story of Goodall’s months of patient watching, her attempts at gaining the trust of the chimpanzees, and her growing love of the land and the animals. It tells the story of how she came to the Gombe Stream, how she gained support for the project, and how the project influenced her family life: At first, it involved her mother, and it eventually led to her meeting of Hugo van Lawick, her future husband.

Yet In the Shadow of Man is equally the story of the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream. Drawing from her carefully recorded observations of the chimpanzees, Goodall records in a vivid narrative style the stories of the chimpanzees themselves. She demonstrates Mike’s rise to dominance over Goliath, David Greybeard’s curious com-bination of cowardice and bravado, and Flo’s enormous exertions as a mother. In the narrative, Goodall is able to make each chimpanzee as real for the reader as the animal is to her. In so doing, she is also able to shed light on their behavior in the wild.

Much of the text is given to telling how her observations led to specific discoveries...

(The entire section is 480 words.)