Ronny San Pakri
Introduction to Literature
December 16, 1994
Karl Marx determined that the oppressed proletariat would grow weary of the system in which they are constantly overlooked and overpowered by their oppressors. The people would join together and revolt against the power-controlling elite known as the bourgeois. In popular entertainment, it is common that any the plight of the commoners is overlooked and any potential uprisings ignored. In Violet Winspear's Time of the Temptress, the characters suppress the revolt of the jungle's monkeys because they willfully misunderstand the attacks. Even though the monkeys' Marxist revolution is mostly unseen, it is highly organized and pointed, and involves all the monkeys in the jungle, fighting for the freedom to share the 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 societies as well. The lower and middle classes, or proletarians, would become angry at their oppressors, the bourgeoisie, and band together, seeking a self-governing state: only a "violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie [would] lay the foundation for the sway of the proletariat" (Marx 241).
The monkeys in the jungle near Tanga are angered by their continued oppression by the local natives, the rebels, and other humans who pass through their territory. Infuriated that they are forced to leave their homes on the jungle floor for the sanctuary of the trees whenever humans enter their jungle, they join together to fight off the invaders. Thus they react as does "an oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility" (Marx 234-35). In order to overcome the menace, the monkeys create a plan to drive off the human explorers. Eve and Wade, the unfortunate and gomless duo trekking through the jungle, bear the brunt of the first assaults, but hardly even notice the attacks of the infuriated monkeys. When the attacks take place, they brush them off with thoughts that the monkeys are merely playing. Despite efforts to fight the bourgeoisie, the simian army is dismissed with 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] probably tossed down . . . by one of those mischievous monkeys" (Winspear 26). But he betrays little fear. Without much response from this first effort, the monkeys plan another whereby they they can attack Eve while she is alone. This also fails, however, as Eve, complacent in her insulated bourgeois ideology, mocks the threat: "she was actually laughing. . . . [O]ne of the monkeys hurl[ed] big squashy bananas at her . . . and she decided to try one and found it eatable" (Winspear 113). The plan obviously fails when the would-be victim eats the ammunition.
Finally, the monkeys have to resort to a masterplan to be carried out at only the perfect moment. One of the more daring monkeys climbs down the trees while Eve is bathing and takes her most valuable possessions: her clothes--the very symbol of elitist bourgeoisie class consciousness, for it is this sartorial distinction alone that distinguishes the two species, oppressors and oppressed. The theft, though, proves not to be the turning point in the intended revolution, since unfortunately two monkeys fight over the clothes. Wade approaches these two and they scamper off into the 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 overlooked
entirely, then at least misunderstood. Wade and Eve thought that
the revolution was nothing more than "mischievous monkeys"
playing around. Organized proletarian action is typically dismissed
by the bourgeoisie. But although the revolution proved unsuccessful,
the monkeys were able to learn a few valuable lessons from their
attempted coup. First, they learned that the oppressed will never
be taken seriously until they are able to wrest power from their
oppressors. More importantly, though, the monkeys learned that
there is no room for a Marxist revolution in a Harlequin romance
novel, not even as a sub-plot.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engles. "Bourgeois and Proletarians." Writing About the World. Ed. Susan McLeod et al. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. 232-242.
Winspear, Violet. Time of the Temptress. Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1978.