Here is a place for the book group to post their thoughts on chapter two of The Lost World. Simply post a comment to this thread. I will set up a post for each chapter.
Reading the second chapter,I was struck by the fact that Prof. Challenger had actually broken an inquisitive journalist's skull. That seemed rather drastic. I had remembered his getting into verbal uproars at scientific meetings like the one in Vienna, but I had forgotten he used such physical violence on a reasonably harmless (though possibly irritating) journalist. It makes him a bit harder to accept as a sympathetic character,
Very good point John. I had never digested that point before. That does take away from the quint charm of Challenger and make him one to very careful around. His temper and loss of control could really hurt some one and he not know it.
Hearty thanks to Derrick Belanger for organising this new environment for the 'Lost World' group.
When I first read 'this book I was mystified by the letters 'N.B.' following the reference to Challenger's birthplace; for some time I supposed he was a Canadian from New Brunswick! I believe they actually stand for 'North Britain', a mode of referring to Scotland which was favoured by people who wished to show their acceptance of the fact that from 1707 onwards England and Scotland no longer existed as separate states. Conan Doyle, we know, believed strongly in integration and co-operation, rather than rivalry and resentment, between nations and races; thus it was natural for him to use this notation, even though he was personally as good a Scot as one could hope to find anywhere.
I hope it will not seem ill-mannered if I allow myself a second bite at this week's chapter. Not knowing if there is such a thing as an annotated 'Lost World' in existence, I felt it might be useful to say something about 'Weissmannism', with the proviso that I am not really any better qualified to discuss the subject than Ed Malone, although I have tried to prepare myself a little more thoroughly.
August Weismann [with one S rather than two] (1834–1914) was a German biologist and an early enthusiast for Darwin's theories, publishing his first paper on the subject in 1868. At first he considered, as Darwin himself apparently did, that particular developments in the physique of an individual creature [such as the powerful muscles of a blacksmith or, to take Darwin's seminal example, the strong beak of a finch that lived on hard nuts] might somehow feed into the body of genetic information transmitted to that individual's descendants – in other words, that 'acquired traits' could be inherited, as J.-B. Lamarck had suggested in the previous century. During the 1880s, however, Weismann came to reject this idea and to consider that only the 'germ cells' (those, that is, which develop into either egg or sperm) contain heritable data; the 'somatic cells', the working cells which between them perform all the functions of the body, can neither receive nor transmit such data. Weismann carried out experiments which supported this idea; notably, he cut off the tails of a number of mice, allowed the creatures to breed, and found that all their descendants showed normal tails. If Weismann was correct, then evolution could act only by accidental variations within the germ cells; adaptations induced by habit, environment or experience would have no effect, since these acted only on the somatic cells. Challenger objected to the idea that the germ cells contained the fixed and complete blueprint for the development of the creature that would grow from them, and I believe that this objection is in effect what he was expressing in the sentence quoted from him in Malone's letter. (Challenger seems to use 'id' to mean 'individual living creature' – a rather different sense from that given by Freud, or rather by Freud's translators, to the word.)
As I understand it, the genetic studies of Gregor Mendel (dating from the 1860s but not generally known to scientists until after 1900) are considered to support Weismann's doctrine. Malone, in fact, was right in his criticism, although he had not the least idea why.
While it is explicitly called out in the text, I will observe that what struck me is that Malone seems to be as much of a ridiculous fraud as Challenger is made out to be. Not only does he lie very transparently, and seemingly needlessly, but his plan, such as it is, has very little chance of success. It is very interesting that we have no sympathetic protagonist at this point.
I have to agree with Robert; Malone's stratagem is not well thought out. Admittedly he could not look up 'Weismannism' on Wikipedia as we can today; but why did he not ask his friend Tarp Henry, during their conversation, to explain the term and perhaps to dictate a letter to Challenger which would have implied some degree of understanding of the subject, instead of the transparent fudge which Malone actually offers?
Perhaps Conan Doyle deliberately chose to show Malone with a thick head and a stout heart, like Brigadier Gerard. I could say more on this point and also on the question of whether Malone qualifies as a 'sympathetic protagonist', but this would involve going beyond the limits of the current chapter. More next week, perhaps!
Thank you Oliver, Robert and John. Your discussion is so interesting and I have learned so much. I look forward to the next discussions. Thanks Decker for setting this up and keeping it updated for each new chapter. You are a true Gentleman. Do you know if there is to be a new edition of an Annotated Lost World ? Thanks again, Ron ( Please onvey my greetings to your fellow Sherlockian Daughter) me.. .
I have enjoyed reading all of the posts for chapter 2. Personally, I think Malone is sympathetic character. He is a 23 year old love sick youth who is acting foolish. Yes, his plan to meet with Challenger is ridiculous and certain to fail. Yes, Tarp Henry is right to call him a liar. Still, I'd argue that he isn't thinking straight. He is trying to impress a girl, and I'm sure we can all think of at least one time in our lives where we did something foolish to impress a girl or a boy.
We still haven't met Challenger. We have only heard about him from others. He is described as a violent, pompous man, and his actions are much more ridiculous than our love struck hero. While he is not a sympathetic character, I think as the book progresses, he becomes likable and is involved in some of the best comic lines and scenes in the story.
I agree that Challenger becomes a more sympathetic character as the story goes on. So, for that matter, does Malone. Challenger turns out not to be the fraud Malone's editor believed, and Malone himself considerably matures.
Incidentally, I note that Malone's editor is portrayed with a strong comic Scottish accent, while Challenger, who is also supposed to be Scottish, is not. Perhaps this is due to Challenger's advanced education,but I would expect the editor of a major London newspaper to be almost as sophisticated as the professor.
A weekly discussion group of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World"