The Lost World: Attitude Paper
Sherri St. Malch
Introduction to Literature
Lost and Found in Maple White Land
The male ego and the fulfillment of a man’sown image of himself can be strong motivating forces behind hisactions and behaviors. Society has created parameters used todefine a “real” man; failing to live up to these specificationsthreatens one’s masculinity and standing amongst one’s peers. These expectations and requirements for manhood are constantlyreinforced by society. The prevailing stereotype of the classic”Marlboro Man” along with movie heroes such as JamesBond, Indiana Jones, and John Wayne give the impression of theadventurous ladies’ man who laughs in the face of danger and cando no wrong. Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale of adventure, The LostWorld, is an excellent example of the search for manhood andglorification of masculinity. What begins as a scientific expeditionturns into a journey to satisfy the suppressed male instinctsand desires for conquest. With the search for knowledge as anappropriate excuse, the explorers of Maple-White land are freeto indulge in the arts of “real” men and live up totheir idealized conceptions of their own greatness.
From the very beginning of The Lost World,it is easy to see where the storyline is heading. Edward Maloneis preparing to propose to his precious Gladys but is abruptlydenied and told he is not quite man enough at this time to meetthe ideals of his idolized beauty. Gladys explains that she wantsa man of action, a man who “makes his own chances” (4). The whole reason for Malone’s participation in the activitiesto come is to prove himself to Gladys through a sort of courtlylove process to win her approval and hand in marriage.
To prove himself, Malone aids the famed LordJohn Roxton in rushing a drunk man to help force feed the drunkard. Malone’s first glimpse of Professor Challenger includes mentionof “a huge spread of shoulders and a barrel of a chest”(17), while Roxton is noted as a famous sportsman (49) and Malonea quite famed player of rugby, “the manliest game we haveleft” (54). Even the drunkard is recognized by Roxton as”the best gentleman jock in the north country” (52)which somehow makes it seem that much more necessary to save him. All the qualities are based on the physical appearance and conditionof the characters. Doyle defines men by what they have accomplished,the size of their chests, and their relative cranial sizes.
The bulk of this account from the journalistMalone takes place deep in the Amazon jungles of South Americafar from civilization and the comforts of industry and technology. It is like one big Boy Scout retreat. These professors and othergentlemen set out to find the undisturbed realm of the dinosaursand end up finding and thrilling the adventurous spirits insidethem. It is called a scientific expedition, but most of the actionstaken are done to achieve personal satisfaction and advancement. Malone has made it clear that his only purpose of accompanyingthe Professor was to find the excitement he craved and to meetthe expectations of his girlfriend. Lord Roxton just wants anothertrophy for his mantle and to experience the awe of the strangeplateau with “a sportin’ risk in every mile of it” (56). Professor Challenger wants to prove himself to the scientificworld and put to rest any doubts and questions over his self-proclaimedsuperiority and intellect. On this so-called scientific quest,Professor Summerlee, who is more or less there due to pressurefrom his fellow scientists, appears to be the only adventurerin the pursuit of science.
This strange new land holds many mysteriesand elements of the unknown. When encountering such oddities,instead of displaying any scientific or journalistic objectivity,the explorers use the worst possible descriptions to add terrorand drama into the story. When first observing the large Iguanodons,words like “monstrous” and “terror” are usedto describe these vegetarian creatures that do not show any threateningbehavior at all. Similarly, when viewing the pterodactyls forthe first time, the natural scene of mothers and their newbornsare seen as a “crawling flapping mass of obscene reptilianlife” (114). These particular animals make the discovery”seem like a scene from the Seven Circles of Dante”(114). Even in the encounter with the missing-link ape-man, Malonedescribes the creature by its large canine teeth and “bestialand ferocious” eyes; he comments that “for an instant[he] read hatred and menace in the evil eyes” (130). Theonly time this description of the horrible residents of MapleWhite Land is not prevalent is during the two professors’ scientificdisputes over classification and the naming of these newly discoveredcreatures. But these few scenes are presented as humorous, asthe men of science are shown to be pedantic and out of touch withthe proper values: those of the men of action. Such displaysof scholarly pontificating are considered inappropriate duringthe adventure. Otherwise, the many exaggerations of the terrorsand the trials faced in The Lost World heighten the senseof danger and show that only men of courage and bravery can overcomeobstacles of fear.
Western civilization places a great emphasison bravery and the chivalrous examples of manhood. A man whotakes control of his surroundings and wins his place in the worldcommands the respect of others and of what’s around him. Thefour travelers in Maple White Land come for the sake of sciencebut end up conquering the natives of this land and claiming ownershipand dominance over their discovery. Somehow during this scientificexpedition the adventurers find it necessary to exterminate severalnative animals and conveniently wipe out the entire male populationof ape-men. It seems that every time they go anywhere they killsomething. Their actions are justified by a twisted “killor be killed” or “survival of the fittest” misinterpretationof Darwinism. Once they step foot in this uncharted land, itis suddenly theirs for the taking. Much like the European colonizationof the globe, the explorers claim their place over their dominionand move on to tame the savages and make the world safe for theircivilization: “man was to be supreme and the man-beast tofind forever his allotted place” (178). The conquest iscomplete with the destruction of the ape-men and their “Apetown”;and with the blood-lust of this slaughter still lingering in theair, the weary conquerors can rightfully claim their prize andreturn to tell about it.
Although it was an important scientific accomplishment,while in the lost world our four travelers worked more on exercisingtheir brutish masculinity than their morals or even their missionfor science. They could have turned their attention to a methodof escape, but instead chose to explore and exploit the reachesof the jungle abyss. They came away with fame and recognition,even wealth–everything they were after and more. The whole purposeof the expedition was for Professor Challenger to save face andprove his story to be true; the three others were along for theride but were soon caught up in the action as well. Science tookthe back seat to Lord Roxton and his adventurous spirit. Withcourage and bravery the men proved themselves to each other andexperienced true “male bonding” in its purest form. They brought back evidence of this zoological and scientificbreakthrough, but more importantly, it seems, they bolstered theiregos and self-assurances of their own worth and capability.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Lost World. 1912. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1990.