Study Guide

The One and Only Ivan Home

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Our circus doesn't migrate. We sit where we are like an old beast to tired to push on. (littlest big top.55)

No glitz and glam here, it seems. So not only is this a life in captivity for Ivan and the others, it's an intensely boring one, too.

In my domain I have a tire swing, a baseball, a tiny plastic pool filled with dirty water, and even an old TV. (artists.70)

Apparently Mack neglected to do his research on gorilla habitats before setting Ivan up in his little concrete condo. Which of those items is Ivan most interested in? Why does he like it more than the plastic pool? If you had to choose three items to spend the rest of your life with, what would they be? Just for fun, your list can't include electronics.

We are both huge and alone, and we both love yogurt raisins. (stella.123)

Ivan is referring to Stella here. They have each other for company, so what does Ivan mean when he says they are both alone. Is it possible to be alone in the presence of others?

Stella tells stories of leafy canopies hidden by mist and the busy songs of flowing water. Stella loves the moon, with its untroubled smile. (stella.124)

Stella's stories are pretty detailed, almost poetic, but they never include circus popcorn, sawdust, or screaming kids. Does she prefer the moon to people? And what's the deal with its untroubled smile? What do you think Stella's idea of home is?

"Everywhere is my home. I am a wild beast: untamed and undaunted." (wild.169)

Bob is arguably the luckiest of the animal pack since he gets to roam freely. Interestingly, though, he always returns…

My sister could not let go of our home. It held her like a vine, stretching across the miles, comforting, strangling. (vine. 646)

Ivan connects the idea of home to his memories of his early childhood. It seems like he sees home as both a blessing and a curse—something he's sorry to have lost, but that he won't hold too tightly to so that the loss doesn't destroy him in the present.

"I don't want a zoo […] I want you and Bob and Julia. This is my home."(training.1238-1239)

Ruby shows Ivan how much he means to her when she tells him that she'd rather stay with at the Big Top Mall than go to a zoo. But Ivan wants her to leave and to understand that this is not a good place for her. Why does Ivan suddenly use the word prison instead of home? He's never used that word before.

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