In The One and Only Ivan, animals represent the natural world, and humans represent, well, humans and the ways in which they relate to the natural world. Some of them majorly mess with the natural world (ahem, Mack), and some of them treat it with respect (thanks, Julia). Ivan, Stella, and the rest of their crew are stuck in the middle, forced into lives governed by the kindness—or lack thereof—of humans.
Though Ivan reminds us that apes and humans are part of the same family, he seems doubtful that humans will ever think of apes as their peers and planet mates. And given his experiences, we can't really say we blame him.
Questions About Man vs. the Natural World
What is natural and unnatural about Ivan's life at the Big Top Mall?
Ivan watches television and learns a lot about the world from doing so. How does television represent the natural world? Human life?
Julia is the favorite human of most of the animals. How does being a child make Julia trustworthy to the animals?
What has Ivan gained from living in a human habitat? What has he lost?
Chew on This
Humans have permanently altered Ivan, and he'll never truly be able to be a gorilla in the fullest sense.
You can take Ivan out of the wild, but you can't take the wild out of Ivan. No matter how long he spends in captivity, Ivan is forever wild at heart.