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Gerald Durrell’s short story, “A Gorilla in the Guest Room” written in 1962, talks about the relation between a gorilla, called as N’pongo, and his caretaker Mr. Durrell. Mr Durrell is an animal conservationist in the process of setting up a zoo when he came across a gorilla from a buyer. What follows in the story of how he forms a bond with the gorilla, taking care of it like his own child, finding a mate for him and even panicking when N’pongo falls sick.
The story starts with a letter to Mr. Durrell where the writer of the letter requests him to take their Rhesus monkey as he was becoming quite difficult to handle. The author then gets a phone call from an animal dealer who was looking for someone to buy a baby gorilla. Mr Durrell agrees to meet the gorilla as he wants many animals for his zoo to protect them because he knew that animals are least looked after by the government.
The price of the baby gorilla is twelve hundred pounds and on top of that Mr. Durrell is skeptic (doubtful) at the fact that the gorilla may turn out to be just an ordinary chimpanzee. Still he accepts the offer but then faces a new dilemma (problem) of gathering twelve hundred pounds. He decides to call all the rich people of that island and convince them to donate some money one way or the other for the baby gorilla.
He is quite shocked with the responses he gets as the majority of the people turns out to be willing, especially people like Major Domo who pays thousand pounds for the gorilla. With the money, he goes to get the baby gorilla and this is how N’pongo walks into his life.
Though they were worried how a baby gorilla will behave, he turned out to be quite well behaved and courteous in manner. Until his cage gets ready, he is to be kept in the guest room of the author’s house. N’pongo is a healthy baby gorilla whose humorous nature wins them all.
A few years passes by, and Mr. Durrell decides that N’pondo should get a mate. He asks the same dealer from whom he bought N’pongo if he has any chance of finding a female gorilla. The man replies that he indeed has knowledge about a female gorilla, a year or two younger than N’pongo. Though the price of the baby gorilla has risen more, Mr. Durrell buys Nandy, a female gorilla, on installments.
When she arrives, the narrator notices scars on her skin and her scared expression. He learns how some humans had hit her and tortured her before and that’s why she has that lost and frightened expression. Initially she is put on a separate cage in-front of N’pongo to get them acquainted.
Though at first none of them show any interest towards each other, N’pongo later becomes quite curious about Nandy and tries to befriends her through funny antics and very soon they become close with each other.
Tension and panic starts to set in when one day N’pongo falls seriously ill. The reason for his ailment (sickness) is not known and soon, he stops eating and rapidly starts losing weight. Everyone is quite tensed as no one knows what to do. Everyone tries to feed him something or the other but he shows interest to none of the them. One day Mr. Durrell goes to the market and sees a watermelon. Knowing that N’pongo has never tasted one, he decides to buy it.
N’pongo, on seeing the watermelon, takes interest in it and samples it. At first there is no sign of improvement and the narrator grows anxious as he is going to leave for France for some work. He does not want to leave without getting some good news about N’pongo but he still didn’t show any rooms for improvement.
Just a day before his departure, N’pongo showed signs of recovery. He starts eating properly and the shine in his eyes was coming. This sight and news not only relieved the narrator but also put him in a happy mood. By the time he came back, N’pongo has returned to the same old mischievous self.
This short story shows how important and beautiful animals are. Humans mistreat them to no extent. In this story, we, the readers ended up adoring N’pongo’s mischievousness and Nandy’s charms. Mr. Durrell really cares about his animals and more people like him are needed in this world.