We wouldn't begrudge Ivan a bit of boredom after twenty-seven years in captivity, but our main ape in The One and Only Ivan refuses to succumb to such a fate. In fact, Ivan claims he is never bored. And why is that? Because he makes art. His body might be caged, but Ivan's mind is free to roam through swirls of color.
Mack sells Ivan's paintings, treating the art like a bonus check that he's entitled to, while Julia and Ivan connect as fellow artists. And when push comes to shove, which it most certainly does, art is Ivan's ticket out of the Big Top Mall. It's not a stretch to say that in Ivan and Ruby's case, art literally saves lives. If only it could have saved Stella's.
Questions About Art and Creativity
When Ivan refers to his art, he puffs up his chest a little—it's a big part of his identity. Why is art the thing Ivan is most proud of?
Besides painting, are there other ways that Ivan is creative? How about Stella?
Is Mack exploiting or helping Ivan as an artist?
What conclusions does Ivan draw about himself through art?
Chew on This
So long as Ivan can make art, he's only physically trapped—his mind remains free.
Creativity is great and all, but art is more of a distraction for Ivan from his terrible existence than it is a mode of expression.