A Gorilla in the Guest Room: Summary and Analysis: 2023

This ‘A Gorilla in the Guest Room’ summary briefly discusses the story’s plotline. Just when Mr. Durrell was entertaining the idea of exploring animal conservation, he got a call from an animal dealer, offering his zoo a baby gorilla for twelve thousand pounds. Mr. Durrell managed to crowdsource the funds from the rich people on the island, and his zoo became home to N’Pongo – a playful gorilla with such courteous manners that he soon became the darling of the zoo, attracting admirers every day.

N’Pongo doubled in size in a year, and Mr. Durrell knew it was time to find him a suitable playmate. Mr. Durrell then got his ape a wife, Nandy – who, having suffered at the hands of humans who had caught her, was of a quiet, reserved nature. Despite being of different temperaments, the marriage of the two apes was a success, and they both grew quite fond of each other.

Four days before an important work trip to France, Mr. Durrell was dismayed to find that N’Pongo had fallen ill, so much so that he had lost a scary amount of weight and had stopped eating or taking liquids altogether. Only when the antibiotic N’Pongo needed was administered through an injection that N’Pongo started showing signs of improvement, just in time for Mr. Durrell to catch his flight.

The story ends with Mr. Durrell looking at his ape playing in his cage and wondering why he opted for the path of animal conservation in the first place, for it came with its own set of anxieties.

A Gorilla in the Guest Room Summary

This A Gorilla in the Guest Room Summary recapitulates the events that take place in the story.

The story begins at a critical juncture at which Mr. Durrell, the narrator of the story, has decided that the zoo he is setting up will stop being a mere exhibition spot for animals and move along animal conservation paths. Next, Mr. Durrell rounds up a list of species that were endangered, which ends up being a massive three-volume long anthology of names. He was wondering which species with when he received a call from an animal dealer asking him if he wanted a baby gorilla.

Aware of the political climate in Africa at the time, under the rule of new governments who did not care much for wildlife conservation, the narrator knew that gorillas were a species headed toward extinction. And so, he decided that he would purchase the baby gorilla at twelve hundred pounds – an amount he did not have but knew he would figure a way to procure. When he discussed the matter with his wife, Jacquie, she exploded, giving a reality check to Mr. Durrell that the bank would never agree to fund the purchase. However, Mr. Durrell was optimistic that he would be able to crowdfund the purchase. He called his colleague Hope immediately and asked her to provide him with a list of the richest people on the island. Hope, too, thought that Mr. Durrell was being overly optimistic but gave him a list of fifty rich people. Without losing any time, Mr. Durrell began calling the numbers one by one; and by lunchtime, he had already managed to accumulate two hundred pounds. With heightened spirits, he called the next rich person on his list – Major Domo, who, fascinated by Mr. Durrell’s conservation plans, agreed to offer him the remaining thousand pounds for the rare species he wished to acquire.

The great day came when the narrator flew to London to bring back his prized gorilla with him. Knowing how poor the zoological knowledge of animal dealers was, Mr. Durrell’s only worry was that he would be handed a chimpanzee instead of a gorilla. But all his doubts were put to rest when the dealer presented N’Pongo – an eighteen-inch healthy gorilla with light chocolate-colored fur and smooth leathery skin. The narrator and N’Pongo became friends quite quickly, for the gorilla was a playful one with a friendly temperament.

On their way back to the zoo, the baby gorilla sat on Mr. Durrell’s lap, looking at the cows and at his new owner’s face. Since his cage was not ready yet, it was decided that N’Pongo would stay in Mr. Durrell’s guest room for a couple of days. N’Pongo’s playful demeanor and courteous manners soon won over Jacquie and Mr. Durrell’s mother – they both fawned over him with delicacies while the staff expectantly paid visits to him one by one. However, N’Pongo was but an ape, and so the narrator watched him like a hawk, lest he turned the guest room into a train wreck with his ape-like antics. And later on, we indeed find that Mr. Durrell’s apprehension towards keeping a gorilla indoors had turned out to be valid. By the end of his stay, there was a raspberry stain on the wall, the floor had hay all over, and the doorknob was permanently bent.

Due to his attractive appearance, amiable manners, and playful sense of humor, N’Pongo soon became the darling of the zoo – attracting and playing with a multitude of visitors every day. In the span of a year, N’Pongo doubled in size – too huge for a human to be a suitable playmate. Mr. Durrell then decided that it was time to get his prized ape a mate in order to ensure that N’Pongo did not become melancholy for want of suitable company. Mr. Durrell then rang up the animal dealer again, looking for a wife for N’Pongo. To his great luck, the dealer not only had a female gorilla available but also agreed to a monthly installment plan for its price of fifteen thousand pounds – a whopping amount, which Mr. Durrell was happy to bear for the sake of his ape.

Soon, N’Pongo’s companion, Nandy, was brought to the zoo. She had frightened eyes – the reason behind this was the ill-treatment she had suffered at the hands of the humans who had previously handled her. Across the top of Nandy’s skull was a scar, which must have been given to her when she was getting caught. The trauma endured by Nandy had given her a quiet, reserved nature.

N’Pongo and Nandy were of different temperaments, so Mr. Durrell feared that their first encounter might be a disaster. For the moment of their introduction, the zoo staff stood anxiously with buckets of water to do damage control shall the need arise. However, the two were, at first, quite indifferent to each other’s presence. Over time, though, both apes grew fond of each other’s company, even devising a plan following which they could share their common cage. The marriage of the gorillas was a success. And despite their opposing nature, they spent their days playing or playfully fighting with each other.

Acquiring a pair of rare species was indeed an achievement for Mr. Durrell’s zoo. This achievement, however, came at a cost: anxiety over their health and well-being. The zoo staff constantly dreaded that either of the gorillas would fall critically ill, so much so that Mr. Durrell had a communication apparatus installed all over the zoo so that the right staff could be contacted during the need of the hour, including himself.

That fateful day eventually came when N’Pongo fell ill. This happened four days before Mr. Durrell’s trip to France, where he was supposed to be networking with BBC and a few other professionals in their trade. He was suffering from acute diarrhea. N’Pongo’s body shrunk in size, and he began looking frail. Since he refused to eat anything, it became difficult for the zoo staff even to administer antibiotics. To get him to eat, Jacquie and Mr. Durrell spent a small fortune buying exotic fruits for N’Pongo, which was refused by the ape, save for a bit of watermelon. By this time, it was suspected that N’Pongo was suffering from some form of colitis. Since the ape still refused to have any liquids, the antibiotic was administered through injection for two days. It was only twenty-four hours till Mr. Durrell was supposed to leave for France – something he felt he couldn’t do unless he could be sure of his beloved animal’s recovery. But luckily, N’Pongo’s health started improving right on time. And on the morning when Mr. Durrell was supposed to catch his flight, the sparkle in N’Pongo’s eyes was back. He looked better and was even eating food and drinking Complan.

By the time Mr. Durrell returned from France, his ape had put back all the weight that he had lost to illness. And while looking at N’Pongo, playing and being his goofy self in his cage, Mr. Durrell allowed his anxiety to alleviate, wondering why he ever started on the path of animal conservation in the first place.

A Gorilla in the Guest House: Analysis

In this A Gorilla in the Guest Room Analysis, we will delve deeper into the story.

A Gorilla in the Guest House depicts the relationship between a gorilla, N’Pongo, and his master, Mr. Durrell. A large gamut of Gerald Durrell’s stories were semi-autobiographical, based on his real-life experiences with animals, and A Gorilla in the Guest House is no exception in this regard.

In this short story, Gerald Durrell critiqued the condition of wildlife conservation in the world. He mentions how newfound governments like those of Africa were so busy proving their worth to the world that they let issues like wildlife conservation slide through. The apathy of the rich classes towards the cause of animals is also hinted at through Jacquie’s and Hope’s pessimism that Mr. Durrell will not crowdfund the purchase of the rare species he wishes to conserve. Durrell also sheds light on the mismanagement practiced by many animal conservation establishments that failed to secure mates for their animals – something that is important for an animal’s well-being. Lastly, the cruelty of humans in dealing with animals is also hinted at through the scar on Nandy’s skull, which was given to her by the human who caught her.

Through this short story, we learn that maintaining a zoo is no easy task. One not only has to acquire animals but also has to take care of their well-being. We get to know about the anxieties of zookeepers through the episode when N’Pongo falls critically ill. The episode was such a tumultuous one for Mr. Durrell that he was even ready to cancel an important work trip to France to stay back and ensure his ape’s recovery. The dedication and concern Mr. Durrell showed during that period give us insights into the deep love that wildlife conservationists have in their hearts for animals.

This short story also narrates in endearing detail two beautiful relationships: one between the zookeeper and his animals and one between N’Pongo and his mate Nandy. Mr. Durrell and N’Pongo were barely like master and pet. Both of them got along well as if they were friends. The relationship between N’Pongo and Nandy is also revealed through loving details – such as the small fights the apes get into and the plans they devise through which both of them could share the space of the common cage.

Just like all of Durrell’s work, even A Gorilla in the Guest House has been written in a humorous, light-hearted manner. Although the purpose of this piece is to educate readers about the travails a dedicated conservationist goes through, the humor and wit with which the story is peppered make it an engaging read.

What shines through about this short story is the empathy with which the writer has treated these animals, such that they hardly remain animals and touch our hearts as any human character would.

A Gorilla in the Guest Room: Character Analysis

In this A Gorilla in the Guest Room character analysis, we will discuss the characters of Mr. Durrell and the two apes N’Pongo and Nandy.

Mr. Durrell was a good-natured animal conservationist who was very passionate about the cause of giving safe homes to species that were in danger of extinction. This meant a lot of hard work, both financially and emotionally, for these animals were expensive to purchase and maintain, and worrying about their health sometimes took a toll on the mental health of the caretakers. However, Mr. Durrell is more than happy to pay the price that comes with taking care of rare species, for it meant that he could pursue his love for animals in a way that helped contribute to nature and society. Unlike the benefactors of many other organizations, Mr. Durrell had not entered the trade for profits but out of sheer love. We know this because Mr. Durrell could have saved money and not gotten N’Pongo a mate when he came of age. But Mr. Durrell knew how important a mate was for the well-being of his beloved N’Pongo and bore huge expenses to procure the same for him. Mr. Durrell’s deep care towards his animals also comes forth when we see his willingness to cancel an important work trip to France because N’Pongo had fallen sick, and his master was worried about his recovery. In this short story, Mr. Durrell is a fine example of how animal conservationists should be.

The character of N’Pongo is an endearing one. Durrell has described this monkey in such human-like details that his character becomes worthy of study. N’Pongo was a playful animal with manners so courteous that one forgot that he came from a family of apes. N’Pongo was also quite the jester, who teased his wife Nandy with pranks and tricks. He won everyone’s hearts over with his playful nature, rolling on the floor and giggling and jumping his way into people’s lives.

N’Pongo’s wife, Nandy, however, has a very different nature. Since she had suffered early on in her life at the hand of cruel humans, she grew distrustful of the world and developed a quiet and reserved nature. However, N’Pongo, with his loving amicable manners, is able to find his way into Nandy’s heart as well.

A Gorilla in the Guest Room: Themes

The most important among A Gorilla in the Guest Room themes is that of the need for animal conservation. Throughout the story, we are given insights into the deplorable condition of animal conservation at the hands of new governments like those in Africa, for which wildlife animals were at the bottom of the priority list. Even organizations that dealt with wildlife conservation did so from the point of view of making profits and did not care inherently for the well-being of animals, not even securing them a mate at a suitable age. However, amidst this sad state of affairs, we have animal rights activists and conservationists like Mr. Durrell, who chose to pursue that path out of sheer love for animals and passion for their well-being. It is through Mr. Durrell’s treatment of animals that we learn of the correct ways in which animals should be taken care of – with love and genuine concern.

Another important theme explored in the story is the relationship between man and animals. Through Mr. Durrell’s relationship with N’Pongo, we view that the best relationship between a master and his animals is one in which they are friends. Mr. Durrell adores his ape and leaves no stone unturned to ensure his well-being, even procuring him a mate at a hefty price. N’Pongo’s well-being was of top priority to Mr. Durrell, which is why when his ape was sick, he was considering canceling an important work trip to France. This short story shows that it is only through fruitful wholesome relationships such as the one between Mr. Durrell and N’Pongo that endangered species and wildlife conservation, at large, stand a chance of surviving in today’s times.

A Gorilla in the Guest House is an endearing short story about the relationship between Mr. Durrell, a passionate wildlife conservationist, and his gorilla N’Pongo. It is through the beautiful relationship between the master and his animal that we learn of the challenges encountered on the path of wildlife conservation and the correct way to do the same. This story also sheds light on the dynamics that animals share with each other, disclosed through the relationship between N’Pongo and Nandy, who had a successful marriage. By highlighting the care and concern Mr. Durrell showed towards his ape, this story makes us realize the kind of people this world needs for endangered species to survive on this planet.

You can also check out the summary of Where the Mind is Without Fear here.

Post updated by Anjali Roongta on 7th April 2023.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The message that the author wants to convey in this story is that humans and animals can co-exist and humans should protect animals, especially wild ones, out of love and not for commercial purposes.

N'Pongo is Durrell's beloved pet, who is almost a friend to the man.

N'Pongo is the character of the gorilla in 'Gorilla in the Guest Room.'
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