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Cannibalism occurs prevalently in both Tarzan and Heart of Darkness, and is a controversial topic with which the public is largely unfamiliar. Although cannibalism is generally thought of in a primitive animal sense, experts have revealed that cannibalism can be identified as a sexual disorder (O’Connor). A cannibal is scientifically classified as an anthropophagus (“Anthropophagus”), which falls under the category of Anthropophagy. Anthropophagy by definition is the sexual gratification by consumption of human flesh or blood. Although rather disturbing, sexual cannibalism is now accepted as the more common variety of cannibalism (O’Connor).
Because sexual cannibalism is considered to be a social taboo both today, and during the times of Tarzan and Marlow, the creation of entertainment based on it has been limited, though the urges to expand on this topic may have been far more prevalent. There have been many films and novels created which depict the anthropophagy related to animals, most specifically, spiders. For example, films such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Little Shop of Horrors” develop the similarities among human and insect anthropophagy (O’Connor).
Due to the use of Anthropophagy for leisure purposes, it is evident that cannibalism is a topic of much interest among humans, aside from its label as a social taboo. Technically, a human’s eating of another human has a chemical effect on the blood. Too much human meat causes a build up of vitamin A and amino acids such as homocysteine in the bloodstream, which could cause congenital defects in future offspring. However, if human organs which are rich in B vitamins and folic acid are eaten along with the human meat, homocysteine is not able to metabolize in the bloodstream. This means that cannibalism could hypothetically be the basis of a healthy diet (“Natural Food”).
Contrary to human meat and organs actually being healthy to a human diet, cannibalism is also said to cause madness and addiction based on sexual urges and gratification. Kate Rix depicts that sexual cannibalism in its truest sense may in fact lead to the development of necrophilia tendencies. Disturbing behavior, such as that of cannibalism as well as necrophilism, is a result of chemical imbalances in the brain.
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Although cannibalism as it occurred in both Tarzan and Heart of Darkness does not seem to reflect sexual desires or actions, the gratification from it has been linked to an instinctual motive that is ultimately sexual. The “Cannibals” in the Heart of Darkness as well as the cannibals from the Mbonga tribe in Tarzan both relied heavily upon their ritualistic and satisfying acts of anthropophagy. The association which is made between cannibalism and the primitive is a logical connection due to cannibalism’s deep root in what Freud called the ID. Although cannibalism has been classified as one of many sexual disorders which have also been deemed mental conditions, researchers have most recently been attempting to explain cannibalism as an eating disorder.
Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa.” The Massachusetts Review. Vol. 18 no. 4 Winter 1977. pp. 782-794.
“Anthropophagus.” The American Heritage College Dictionary. Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston. 2002.
“Natural Food-What is Meat?” The Natural Food Hub. 4 October 2002.
O’Connor, T. “Cannibalism.” 3 October 2002.
Rix, Kate. “The Great Cannibalism Debate.” 6 October 2002. San Francisco.
The Natural Foods Hub provides information on the chemistry and biology of the human consumption of other human meat and organs.
This website offers many frequently asked questions regarding cannibalism. It provides information on why cannibalism is practiced, where it was and is most commonly practiced, as well as how anthropologists go about research on a topic such as cannibalism.
Not only is cannibalism an area of interest at this site, but rape, necrophilia and fetishism are presented as well. A lot of the information is slightly disturbing perhaps because cannibalism is quite a disturbing topic, and so is its relevance to the other topics mentioned. This site also provided links which are included here. Most are also very disturbing.
The Big Gulp is a site which looks into vorephilia, or the desire to swallow things whole. Vorephilia is an act of cannibalism, however in a more specific realm, and most do not actually practice the activities, but merely fantasize about them.
This website provides history and examples of criminal cannibalism. Such instances include the stories of the Hanover Vampire and Jeffery Dahmer.
This site may be the most disturbing of the entire site, perhaps because it includes an actual interview with a necrophile. Though this is not necessarily directly correlated with cannibalism, it is a similar sexual disorder