Next of Kin

Essay by ryan_abeUniversity, Bachelor'sB, March 2004

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In this book Roger Fouts tells his research with chimpanzee behavior by telling the story of his relationship with Washoe, a young chimpanzee. His work with chimpanzees helps us realize the close behavioral similarities between apes and humans. As a graduate student, Fouts began his study as a part of an experiment while in University. Here he took part in an experiment in which chimpanzees were to learn sign language the same way that a deaf child would. Seeing that he was the person who has spent the most time with Washoe he is well positioned to look at the philosophical and ethical issues involved with a talking chimpanzee. He also deals with other chimps besides Washoe that have learned how to sign. Fouts writes this story while he discusses his findings and what he learned while at the same time adding enough humor to make the book interesting.

The majority of the book was not overly entertaining however; his combination of humor and the humorous events that occurred throughout his experience with the chimpanzees allows the second half of the book to be much more enjoyable. With his familiar referral to Curious George, Roger Fouts definitely seems to be the Man in the Yellow Hat.

Following a jot on his early personal life, Fouts begins to experience how chimpanzees can learn to sign and communicate during his first days living with the Gardner's. I found it interesting his struggles with Washoe in attempting to teach her discipline and how much Washoe's behavior resembled that of a human child. Then he reveals how chimpanzees grasp the idea of language and grammar. The way that he begins to communicate with Washoe was very interesting, then as the book developed he showed the more sensitive and emotional side that chimpanzee's...