Study Guide

The One and Only Ivan Man vs. the Natural World

By Katherine Applegate

Man vs. the Natural World

In my size humans see a test of themselves. (how I look.16)

Ivan is four hundred pounds of pure power. The reason he and other animals are captured, as he says here, is because humans interpret his size as a sort of challenge to their own power.

A jungle scene is painted on my domain walls. A waterfall without water and flowers without scent and trees without roots. (the exit 8 big top mall.32)

Ivan has a faux nature scene painted on the wall of his cell. Is this supposed to make him feel more at home and distract him from the fact that he lives in a shopping mall? Ivan isn't fooled.

Here in my domain, there is no one to protect. (the exit 8 big top mall.43)

Ivan associates protecting with gorillas' natural behavior. With nobody to protect, then, he can't be fully himself.

The elephants look far off into the distance so they won't see the humans that want to see them. (the littlest big top.54)

Have you ever been so mad at someone that you've looked between their eyes instead of looking them in the eye? This reminds us of that tactic.

"A good zoo is a wild cage, a safe place to be. It has room to roam and humans who don't hurt. A good zoo is how humans make amends." (jambo.330)

How can a cage be wild? What does Stella mean when she talks about humans making amends? For more on the zoo, be sure to check out the "Symbols" section.

When the boy awoke, his humans cried out "Stay still! Don't move!" Because they were certain—humans are always certain about things—that Jambo would crush the boy's life from him. (jambo.335)

Jambo, of course, had no such intention. This is a classic case of humans just not understanding animals—and exerting control over them anyway.

"Not the greatest specimen, But I got her cheap from this bankrupt circus out west." (stella helps.380)

Is it time to put Mack in a box and then parade him around in a ring while we critique his unshapely figure and receding hairline? He's talking about Ruby here, and she's just a baby elephant for crying out loud.

"Humans. Rats have bigger hearts. Roaches have bigger souls." (ruby's story.553)

Okay, so Bob is especially averse to humans. He doesn't trust them one bit, which makes sense since he was abandoned as a pup. But what did rats and roaches ever do to him?

The humans […] coo. They clap.

Ruby is a hit.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad. (a hit.573-575)

Ruby's done her job well, which is usually cause for celebration, but since her job entails a life of captivity in a mall, being "trained" with a claw hook, and forced to perform for humans with little regard for her well-being, well… it's also kind of sad.

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