Blurring Boundaries between Animal and Human: Animalhuman Rights in "Juan Darien" by Horacio Quiroga

By Gunnels, Bridgette W. | Romance Notes, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Blurring Boundaries between Animal and Human: Animalhuman Rights in "Juan Darien" by Horacio Quiroga


Gunnels, Bridgette W., Romance Notes


THE title of this study suggests multiple questions, ontological as well as moral and ethical. Before blurring any boundaries between what has historically and scientifically been a neat, dyadic relationship, I must explore exactly what are the differences between human beings and animals, and at what moments do each of the entities cross over or blend, becoming hybrid beings possessing shared qualities. And moreover, does the manner in which human beings define themselves have a direct relation to the extension of rights? How do we define ourselves, if not in direct comparison to something we are not?

Theorists and philosophers alike from Descartes to Derrida have problematized this 'question of the animal' to such degrees that any discussion here would not even begin to scratch the surface of this most storied of topics. In short, by insisting on defining ourselves in terms of what we are not, we have installed a world of dichotomous beings and non-beings, humans and animals, subjects and objects, selves and Others who constantly battle for that coveted 50-yard line seat at the center of all things intellectual: who comes first? Nature or culture? Center or periphery?

This note briefly makes use of the historical conversations between leagues of others before me regarding the essence of human and animal and how these differ. It also uses as a cornerstone the basic conclusions of recent animal rights theorists as well as those ecocritics who would ponder the issues of nature and culture (or, as Donna Haraway puts it, naturecultures). While using the short story "Juan Darien" by Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga as a naturalcultural allegory, this essay situates recent thoughts on animal rights with the ideas of ecocritics who seek to destabilize dichotomous relationships (namely that of nature and culture). This note takes on a natural reading of "Juan Darien" by questioning the notion of 'civilization' on one level, while at the same time presenting readers with serious ethical breaches against a human being (Juan Darien the boy) on another, all leading to the culmination of this macabre tale in which the sacrifice of a tiger/boy leads to the physical, spiritual and emotional death of a village and a loss of innocence on an unprecedented scale.

As I interpret it, both human and animal rights are seriously contravened in Quiroga's story, and yet this tale offers more than a surface interpretation of animal rights or welfare. It leads readers to question their own humanity as well as animality, blurring the boundaries that have historically differentiated humans from animals. Although this piece could be read as a metaphorical tool that teaches the consequences of colonization and deculturation in Latin American cultures, a simpler (but by the same token more complex) reading of Quiroga's work shows it as a fictional illustration of how easily the limits that humans draw between themselves and the animal world can be compromised (and questioned) to a point where one being crosses into another, taking on characteristics, both physical and metaphorical, that would belie the 'true nature' of each.

Although cursory mention of the conclusions of Derrida, Wittgenstein, Bentham, and Freud are important to the theoretical foundation of this note, ecocritical points of view from Donna Haraway as well as animals rights thinkers Cary Wolfe and Peter Singer, are important for setting the stage of the nature/culture debate and its place in the creation of cultural artifacts (i.e.-literature). First, however, is a brief summary of "Juan Darien" to illustrate why it is such an appropriate vehicle for inspiring a different approach to the way we consider our relationships with animals.

Quiroga tells the story of a young mother who loses her only child to a virus epidemic in the village. She is disconsolate until the night that a baby tiger wanders into her garden. She takes the animal in and gives him shelter and love. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Blurring Boundaries between Animal and Human: Animalhuman Rights in "Juan Darien" by Horacio Quiroga
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.