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Essay/Term paper: Never cry wolf by farley mowat

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

For my book report, I have chosen the novel Never Cry Wolf by Farley
Mowat. In this report I will give a brief summary of the novel as well as why I
have chosen it for my report. Finally, I will give my reactions to the novel
with regards to its analysis of the place of human beings in nature, whether the
destiny of humans and nature is intertwined, and how nature is regarded by the
different religious and political philosophies demonstrated in the novel.
Never Cry Wolf is based upon the true story of the author's experiences
during two years spent as a biologist studying a family of wolves in northern
Canada during the mid nineteen fifties. When Mowat is sent on his expedition
his goal is to bring back proof of the wolves decimating effect on the northern
herds of Caribou. After arriving at the remote location, he finds a group of
wolves and begins his research. He then discovers the differing peculiarities
of the wolves and finds that they are more than the savage and merciless hunters
that he had previously believed them to be. He discovers that they are in fact
a very efficient and resourceful and have their own distinctive culture. For
example he discovers that they in fact have a symbiotic relationship with the
caribou in that they keep the caribou population strong by hunting down only the
sick and weaker members of the herd. This leads to a situation where the
strongest caribou survive and thus the herd is made stronger. As well they
have their own social orders that ensure peaceful co-existence with one another
instead of being reduced to fighting amongst themselves. Before Mowat's
excursion conventional wisdom thought that that was the only interraction that
the wolves were capable of. In his group he finds a monogamous pair who are
raising their litter with assistance from another male wolf who Mowat terms to
be an "uncle". His previous assumptions which portrayed the wolves as cold
heated killers who lived only for the hunt, is challenged as he observes these
animals play and interact within their environment his previous assumptions
about the role that these animals play in nature. His attitude metamorphosis'
from one of disdain and contempt to one of genuine respect and admiration.
I chose this novel for study instead of Siddhartha because I felt that
this novel speaks more directly to me. I felt this way firstly, because of the
location of the novel, northern Canada, in which I traveled for a summer, and
secondly because I enjoy spending time in the outdoors. This meant that I could
more easily identify the setting and thus relate better to the author's feelings
and perceptions. Meanwhile, Siddhartha was set in India and in my mind was
dated and unreal humankind (society) seems today to have more of a desire and a
need to get back to nature and the simple life. The spirit of peace that
emanates from Mowat's book allows one to focus on what is possible when one has
time to reflect In this I mean that Never Cry Wolf seemed to hold a more
meaningful message for modern times. As well I found the style of writing in
the Mowat novel to be clearer then in Siddhartha. These were some of the
factors that combined to produce a situation where Never Cry Wolf captured my
attention more than Siddhartha. It was for these reasons that I chose the novel
by Farley Mowat.
In my opinion, Never Cry Wolf placed humans in the role of intruders as
far as nature is concerned. Mowat cites several instances where humans violate
nature and represent a threat to its sanctity. Even though this threat is not
reciprocated by nature, humans continue to infringe upon nature and then deny
the consequences of their actions. Two prevalent examples of this occur: when
Mowat accidentally wanders into the wolves den when the wolves' are there, and
again when he discovers a herd of deer that have been slaughtered by hunters.
Both examples show humans intruding upon nature and using it for their own
In the first example Mowat decides to explore the wolves' den without
realizing that they are still inside. Once inside he discovers that they are
still there and he fears that he is going to be killed by them. Even though he
is an intruder the wolves take no action against his presence and he manages to
escape. The most disturbing aspect of this event is afterwards when he
describes the rage and fear that overcame him at the thought of having been at
their mercy:

"I sat down on a stone and shakily lit a cigarette, becoming
aware as I did that I was no longer frightened. Instead an
irrational rage possessed me. If I had had my rifle I believe
that I might have reacted in brute fury and tried to kill both
wolves." (P. 175)

In the second incident Mowat illustrates how humans brutally use nature
for their own benefit and pleasure. The situation occurs when a trapper comes
to Mowat to show him "proof" of the savage and merciless ways of wolves.
Following the trapper they come to a spot where approximately 50 deer have been
slaughtered. However, he quickly finds out that the deaths were the result of
human hunters. Of the herd only two or three had been touched after the kill,
their heads taken home as trophies. Despite the evidence Mowat is unable to
convince people of the true nature of the predators and in response to the
incidence the bounty on wolves is raised by twenty dollars.
Overall I would say that Mowat's book makes the point that the destiny
of humans and animals are closely entwined. Several times in the novel he
illustrates how each affects the other. As well he also demonstrates how humans
can still learn from nature. One example of this occurs when Mowat's food
supplies run low and he adapts the fishing tactics of the wolves in order to
catch fish.
The final aspect of Never Cry Wolf that I will examine is how nature is
regarded by the various religious and political philosophies demonstrated in the
novel. The two different philosophies which are demonstrated are one which are
diametrically opposed. The first philosophy is that of mainstream western
culture. This philosophy views nature as something to be feared and ultimately
conquered. Throughout the book there are examples where people with this
viewpoint attempt to dominate nature or at least attempt to impose human moral
judgment upon it. This is especially prevalent in people's attitudes towards
wolves. They see the wolves bloodthirsty, merciless killers who are
pillaging the caribou herds for mere blood sport. And yet those people fail to
recognize that the true slaughterers are the human predators who blatantly
overhunt the caribou herds. For instance, Mowat finds that conservatively,
trappers kill a combined 112 000 deer every year but still blame the wolf for
the caribous' decimation.
The other philosophy demonstrated in Never Cry Wolf is that of the
native Americans of northern Canada. Their philosophy, as presented by Mowat is
one which views humans as only being a fraction of the total importance of
nature. In their culture they are taught to have reverence for nature and to be
efficient in their use of natural resources. This philosophy causes them to see
wolves, not as bloodthirsty menaces, but as animals simply fulfilling their role
in the natural chain.
In conclusion I believe that Never Cry Wolf illustrates the various
beliefs that different people have about nature and the environment. Mowat also
effectively demonstrates how these beliefs influence people's interaction with
nature. Finally, Mowat leaves no doubt that humans do have a large and
sometimes traumatic impact upon nature. However with his experience changing
Mowat's own change of thinking, we see that it is possible for humans to correct
the error of their humanistic thinking. This can particularly be seen in
Mowat's closing sentences...

"I thought of Angeline and her pup cowering at the bottom of the
den where they had taken refuge from the thundering apparition of
the aircraft, and I was shamed." (P.175)


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