My Family And Other Animals By Durell

Essay, Research Paper

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is a novel concerning an English

family, the Durrells, who suddenly leave their home in Britain in order to move

to the Greek island of Corfu. This book is told from the viewpoint of Gerald

Durrell, the youngest member of the family, who gives a detailed account of

certain incidents that are imprinted in his mind, of the family?s five year

stay in Corfu. Many of the anecdotes capture the most interesting of the

family?s encounters with the island and it?s inhabitants but the main theme

is of two intertwined worlds; that of animals and wildlife, with that of people.

Because of Gerry and his extreme love of nature, many of his pets and family

members meet frequently, resulting in chaotic situations. Once in Corfu, the

Durrells encounter a great number of characters that are both eccentric and a

little flamboyant and it is these characters on which the story is based, along

with the many pets that Gerry acquires throughout his time in Greece. It is from

these characters and their outlandish ways that much of the entertainment comes

and to the reader, it may often seem, that even though My Family and Other

Animals is a true story, that the island and its inhabitants are slightly

exaggerated. Upon arrival in Corfu, the Durrells face a number of problems in

finding a villa and understanding the Greek language. When having difficulty

communicating with taxi drivers, the family meets one of the most amusing and

significant characters in the story, Spiro. This individual helps the Durrells

through their dilemmas in finding a suitable villa, dealing with the Customs

official and generally in settling in and getting started in a new place with a

new life. Throughout this time, Gerry, a young naturalist, finds much pleasure

in roaming the island and discovering all of Mother Nature?s creations. During

these expeditions, he meets a great many people all of whom with which he soon

becomes acquainted. On these daily explorations, Gerry soon comes across a

curious man, from whom he buys his first pet, a turtle. This character, because

of the innumerable rose beetles he keeps, soon comes to be known as the

Rose-Beetle Man. After only a few weeks in Corfu, the family comes across

another problem, the necessity for Gerry to have a proper education. To resolve

the situation as promptly as possible, it is arranged that George, an old

writing friend of Larry?s (Gerry?s oldest brother) be left with the task of

teaching Gerry. Through George, Gerry soon comes to meet Doctor Theodore

Stephanides, an expert naturalist, with whom he soon becomes close friends. Both

share a great love for natural history and in a short time Gerry becomes

Theodore?s companion . After a relatively short time in Corfu, the family

decides that they must move villa in order to accommodate a multitude of

Larry?s guests. Because of this unexpected move, Gerry, again, is left without

any source of education and as a result it is arranged that he be tutored by the

Belgian consul (George no longer tutors Gerry). Outside of his regular lessons,

Gerry spends most of his time learning as much as he possibly can about all the

species of wildlife that roam the island and soon obtains an immense number of

pets including three dogs, two magpies, a gull, a pigeon, snakes and a gecko.

Once again, as he is in a new environment, Gerry spends his time investigating

his surroundings and becoming familiar with nature. He continues with his

education but not long after this move, the Durrells move again for various

different reasons. As the Belgian consul can no longer teach Gerry in their new

location, yet another tutor is found for him; a person by the name of Kralefsky

who appears to be an eccentric bird-lover. As both Kralefsky and Gerry share the

same interests, they become immediate friends and even though Gerry is not too

keen on his lessons, he learns a great deal about ornithology. With all of these

fascinating characters on the island, and Gerry?s menagerie of animals, the

Durrells five year stay in Corfu is full of excitement and peculiar encounters.

The novel concludes when it is decided, by Mr. Kralefsky and Mrs. Durrell, that

the time had come for Gerry to go somewhere else in Europe to finish his

education. Because of this, the Durrells? vacation comes to a close when the

entire family packs up all their belongings and leaves Corfu, their home, to

return after five years, to England. During their time in Corfu, the Durrells

come upon a variety of different people all of whom contribute to the story in

their own unique way. Among this group of people, the ones that are imprinted in

my mind are Spiro, Kralefsky, and Lugaretzia the maid. Even though they are real

characters, many of them are so eccentric that they often seem exaggerated in

the things that they do and say, adding individuality to the book. In my

opinion, Spiro, the first friend that the Durrells make in Corfu, is one of the

most funny and important characters in the story. The ?short, barrel-bodied

individual, with ham-like hands and a great, leathery, scowling face surmounted

by a jauntily-tilted peaked cap? and his determination to get his own way no

matter what, makes him one of the most amusing characters even though he always

means well. With his terrible English and his booming voice, Spiro, a taxi

driver, has great effect over everyone on the island. He wants to be the ?man

of the Durrell household?, constantly organizing everyone and running all the

errands. With his bouncy, fun-loving personality, Spiro soon becomes one of the

family, advising Mrs. Durrell on Margo (Gerry?s only sister) and on how to

handle the three boys. He is always ready to help, in his own unique way and

constantly brings laughter and amusement to the family. To the novel, he brings

great entertainment and the reader is constantly kept laughing. His strange

English, made up of a great deal of swear words, along with his Grecian accent

and the amusing things he says, bring a lot of character to the book and keeps

the reader enthralled. Another unusual character and one that is easily

remembered by the reader, is Kralefsky, Gerry?s last and most successful

tutor. This individual ?not a human being at all, but a gnome who had

disguised himself as one by donning an antiquated but very dapper suit?, is

quite an eccentric as well, but immediately finds something he has in common

with Gerry, his passion for natural history. He is a man that is full of

thoughts and dreams, often in his own world when surrounded by his collection of

birds. In addition, he likes to entertain, constantly telling creative stories

that somehow always seem to involve Ladies. Kralefsky is a very imaginative

character, and because of this, he teaches Gerry a great deal and broadens his

perspective on life. The two soon become close friends and both learn an immense

amount from one another. To the story, he brings humor and a personality that is

quite peculiar, which is great entertainment for the reader. A third odd

character in this novel, that adds a lot to the story is Lugaretzia, the

Durrells? maid. She is the wife of the gardener who looks after the Durrells?

estate and Mrs. Durrell soon employs her as a helping hand in the villa. Little

did the family know that Lugaretzia, as she is called, is a melancholy old woman

whose main obsession lies in the discussion of her ailments. Constantly moaning

about her stomach, her feet, her head and all other parts of her body,

Lugaretzia is an over-sensitive individual, coming to pieces at the slightest

criticism. She is a dismal lady who somehow seems to be in constant pain and is

always seeking sympathy from whomever she can. Even though SHE is the hired aid,

it appears that it is her who always needs a helping hand. At first, the family

finds it hard to get accustomed to Lugaretzia and her problems, but after a

while they learn how to deal with her. Even though she has only a small role in

the story, Lugaretzia brings a great deal of amusement to the readers with her

daily bulletins on the state of her health and her endless groans. She brightens

up what might usually be a boring routine for the Durrells and even though some

of the situations might not be pleasant for their family, they are humorous for

the reader. Generally, I enjoyed the book for its humor as well as its eccentric

characters, and found it amusing to see different situations through the eyes of

Gerry, the youngest member of the family. Many of the passages illustrating the

island and its wildlife are very descriptive and give the reader the sense of

actually being there but occasionally these excerpts are overly depicted, thus

making it slightly boring. After reading this novel, I realize that in this

world there are numerous different people and in meeting any of them one must

learn to deal with each and every individual in a special way. These encounters

should be taken upon with an open-mind and in this way, we are able to develop

our outlook on life.

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