Time and Generations in "Hoffmeier's Antelope"

Barry J. Fishman '89

A chronic generation gap separates the narrator and his Uncle Walter in "Hoffmeier's Antelope." The uncle is a zoo keeper who protects endangered species from an increasingly complex and dangerous world. The young narrator, who is unnamed in the story, assumes the philosophical viewpoint that zoos are nothing more than cages and that nature should remain uncaged. "I scorned London," he says, "for the same reason that I despised zoos and remained loyal to my rural heritage" (p.31). The narrator feels that mankind has suffered a downfall through evolution.

Although the two have their differences, the narrator and uncle really do agree on key issues. Near the end of the story, we learn that urban development is taking over the old neighborhood, and the bulldozers are beginning to approach. The uncle's opposition to this urbanization is unexpected by the narrator: "This surprised me. I always imagined him as living in some remote, antiquated world in which the Zoological Society, august, venerable, was the only arbiter and shrine. So long as he could travel to the warm scent of fur and dung, it did not seem to me that he noticed the traffic thundering on the North Circular, the jets whining into Heathrow, the high-rises and fly-overs . . ." (p.40). But the approach of civilization does bother the uncle, who simply wants the last two Hoffmeier's Antelopes in his care to reproduce. It turns out that man's civilizing instincts have led to the demise of these creatures. In the final analysis the generations are in unspoken agreement. The narrator's problem is that he is unable to recognize just how much he and his uncle agree, and for his part the uncle cannot approach his nephew without sermonizing.

Postcolonial Web United Kingdom OV Swift OV Learning to Swim