Time of the Temptress
Ronny San Pakri
Introduction to Literature
December 16, 1994
Revolutionaries in the Trees
Karl Marx determined that the oppressed proletariat would growweary of the system in which they are constantly overlooked andoverpowered by their oppressors. The people would join togetherand revolt against the power-controlling elite known as the bourgeois. In popular entertainment, it is common that any the plight ofthe commoners is overlooked and any potential uprisings ignored. In Violet Winspear’s Time of the Temptress, the characterssuppress the revolt of the jungle’s monkeys because they willfullymisunderstand the attacks. Even though the monkeys’ Marxist revolutionis mostly unseen, it is highly organized and pointed, and involvesall the monkeys in the jungle, fighting for the freedom to sharethe jungle with the humans more equitably and justly.
In Marxist theory, all societies would revolt against oppression. We might therefore extend this principle to non-human societiesas well. The lower and middle classes, or proletarians, wouldbecome angry at their oppressors, the bourgeoisie, and band together,seeking a self-governing state: only a “violent overthrowof the bourgeoisie [would] lay the foundation for the sway ofthe proletariat” (Marx 241).
The monkeys in the jungle near Tanga are angered by their continuedoppression by the local natives, the rebels, and other humanswho pass through their territory. Infuriated that they are forcedto leave their homes on the jungle floor for the sanctuary ofthe trees whenever humans enter their jungle, they join togetherto fight off the invaders. Thus they react as does “an oppressedclass under the sway of the feudal nobility” (Marx 234-35). In order to overcome the menace, the monkeys create a plan todrive off the human explorers. Eve and Wade, the unfortunateand gomless duo trekking through the jungle, bear the brunt ofthe first assaults, but hardly even notice the attacks of theinfuriated monkeys. When the attacks take place, they brush themoff with thoughts that the monkeys are merely playing. Despiteefforts to fight the bourgeoisie, the simian army is dismissedwith a cursory and narcissistic response: that the monkeys are”curious about us but not dangerous” (Winspear 20). Thus the oppressors find ways to deny the revolt of the masses.
The monkeys obviously plan their attempted coup very carefully. At first, they shower the intruders with debris in a direct attack. Wade acknowledges this assault: the “bird’s egg [was] probablytossed down . . . by one of those mischievous monkeys” (Winspear26). But he betrays little fear. Without much response fromthis first effort, the monkeys plan another whereby they theycan attack Eve while she is alone. This also fails, however,as Eve, complacent in her insulated bourgeois ideology, mocksthe threat: “she was actually laughing. . . . [O]ne of themonkeys hurl[ed] big squashy bananas at her . . . and she decidedto try one and found it eatable” (Winspear 113). The planobviously fails when the would-be victim eats the ammunition.
Finally, the monkeys have to resort to a masterplan to be carriedout at only the perfect moment. One of the more daring monkeysclimbs down the trees while Eve is bathing and takes her mostvaluable possessions: her clothes–the very symbol of elitistbourgeoisie class consciousness, for it is this sartorial distinctionalone that distinguishes the two species, oppressors and oppressed. The theft, though, proves not to be the turning point in theintended revolution, since unfortunately two monkeys fight overthe clothes. Wade approaches these two and they scamper off intothe safety of the trees while the humans retrieve the clothing. So ended the brief Monkey Revolution of the Jungle.
The uprising of the monkeys was short and, if not overlookedentirely, then at least misunderstood. Wade and Eve thought thatthe revolution was nothing more than “mischievous monkeys”playing around. Organized proletarian action is typically dismissedby the bourgeoisie. But although the revolution proved unsuccessful,the monkeys were able to learn a few valuable lessons from theirattempted coup. First, they learned that the oppressed will neverbe taken seriously until they are able to wrest power from theiroppressors. More importantly, though, the monkeys learned thatthere is no room for a Marxist revolution in a Harlequin romancenovel, not even as a sub-plot.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engles. “Bourgeois and Proletarians.” Writing About the World. Ed. Susan McLeod et al. FortWorth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. 232-242.
Winspear, Violet. Time of the Temptress. Toronto: HarlequinBooks, 1978.