Matt Cartmill. 1993. A View to a Death in the Morning. Cambridge , Massachusetts : Harvard University Press.
Reviewed by Amy Fitzgerald, April 15, 2003.

Chapter One: The Killer Ape

This book is about the links that people attempt to draw between hunting and being human. Consequently, Cartmill begins the book with this chapter outlining the development of the hunting hypothesis. This hypothesis, which gained popularity in the 1960s, posits that hunting is responsible for the evolution of apes into humans. The implication of this hypothesis is that humans are naturally violent, are separate from the animal kingdom, and that through their hunting men are solely responsible for human culture.

Chapter Two: The Rich Smell of Meat and Wickedness

In this chapter, Cartmill traces the decline of the popularity of the hunting hypothesis in the seventies. He argues that there is no one clear reason why people were attracted to the hypothesis, and he examines various reasons why the hypothesis appealed to people throughout the rest of the book.

Chapter Three: Virgin Huntress and Bleeding Feasts

Cartmill provides the following definition of hunting in this chapter: “We define hunting, then, as the deliberate, direct, violent killing of unrestrained wild animals; and we define wild animals in this context as those that shun or attack human beings. The hunt is thus by definition an armed confrontation between humanness and wildness, between culture and nature” (page 30). He proceeds in this chapter to examine references and links to hunting in Greek mythology, the Old Testament, and ancient Roman writings. He also traces the change in the symbolic significance of deer over the years. Eventually, deer became considered the ideal game animal in Western Europe .

Chapter Four: The White Stag

In the middle-ages in Northern Europe , as the human population grew and wild places shrank, the forests came under the dominion of the aristocracy and hunting became restricted to the nobility. Partly as a result of this restriction, deer took on symbolic nobility in the middle ages, whereas previously they had been symbols of cowardice. From the 12 th through the 16 th Centuries hunting was used as a metaphor in art for the pursuit of a lover, and it was eroticized. The result of this new elevation of deer was that it made it possible to see the hunting as problematic. According to Cartmill, the only remaining barrier to seeing hunting as an injustice was the notion of the divine origins of man.

Chapter Five: The Sobbing Deer

In the 16 th Century doubts about the legitimacy of man's dominion over nature surfaced and the first condemnations of hunting ensued. Cartmill cites examples of such condemnations in the writings of Erasmus, Thomas More, Montaigne, and Shakespeare. With these negative feelings towards hunting came a decline in the theme of the erotic hunt. The new representation of the sobbing deer in 16 th Century art symbolized issues of social justice and expressed questions about humans' relationships with animals. This skepticism regarding man's dominion over nature was, however, rather short lived.

Chapter Six: The Noise of Breaking Machinery

In the 17 th Century, mechanistic philosophies became popular. As a result, the natural world and animals were seen as mere machines. The cries of animals in pain came to be referred to as ‘the noise of breaking machinery'. These mechanistic philosophies lost favor in the 18 th Century, and some writers during this period tried to lower the barrier between humans and animals. Philosophers such as Maupertuis, Rousseau, and Bentham began discussing animal rights during this period. Also during this period, writers turned to Native Americans as a model of ‘natural man', and because they hunted it became viewed as natural. According to Cartmill, in the 18 th Century these beliefs about hunting and the interest in ‘savages' combined to show the first foreshadowings of the Killer Ape.

Chapter Seven: The Sorrows of Eohippus

The later 18 th Century Romantics revered nature and they were not interested in taming it. However, they had conflicting views on hunting: some celebrated man's return to nature while others condemned it. Some Romantics, such as Shelley, even thought that meat eating was problematic.

Chapter Eight: The Sick Animal

While the Romantics viewed nature in a spiritual way, Darwinists viewed it as an arena for competition and hierarchy. Cartmill discusses how the European imperialists hunted in the colonies, and he asserts that hunting honed their skills for killing the natives. The popularized stereotype of the ‘Great White Hunter' was in direct contrast with the romantic notion of the hunter as a friend of nature. Cartmill proceeds to describe the manifestations of the Romantic and Darwinian conceptions of nature in popular culture and art of the 19 th and early 20 th Centuries.

Cartmill also traces the development of the animal welfare movement, the anti-vivisection movement, and the conservation movement in the 19 th Century in this chapter. He also explains how the views of Nietzsche and Freud became popularized and added credence to the notion that man must embrace suffering and satisfy their animal instincts by hunting.

Chapter Nine: The Bambi Syndrome

In this chapter Cartmill discusses the creation of ‘Bambi' and the effects it has had on attitudes towards hunting. Bambi's creator, Felix Salten, a hunter, was apparently also an animal-lover. His hunting experiences led him to create Bambi. Walt Disney, who turned the novel into an animated picture, was reportedly upset by a hunting incident as a child. Cartmill discusses the critiques of the movie levied by hunters and he argues that they are correct at least in their assertion that it has had a negative affect on attitudes toward hunting. He concludes the chapter with a discussion of the ‘animalization' of children's culture.

Chapter Ten: A Fatal Disease of Nature

Cartmill traces the works of the earliest hunting hypothesis proponents, and he argues that although the hypothesis did not gain popularity in the early 20 th Century due to anti-Darwinist sentiment, it did become more popular in the 1960s due to the neo-Darwinist movement. Further, after World War II anthropologists turned away from notions of racial hierarchy and sought to affirm human unity, which required a distinct barrier between humans and animals. Cartmill sums up the explanations for the popularity of this hypothesis in the second half of the 20 th Century as follows: “The hunting hypothesis posited a big adaptive difference between early hominids and apes, which satisfied the demands of neo-Darwinian theory on the one hand and racial egalitarianism on the other. The pessimism and misanthropy inherent in Dart's killer-ape story were popular for another set of reasons: they reflected the decay of the scientific intelligentsia's faith in progress” (page 202).

Chapter Eleven: The Spirit of the Beast

Cartmill explains that throughout the 20 th Century, people have grown more critical of humanity and have tended to idealize nature. This has led to the following paradox: we view humans as separate from nature and superior to it, yet at the same time we view nature as sacred. Cartmill argues that this view is incoherent and dishonest, and that just as we have given up other boundaries because they are indefensible, such as racial boundaries, we must give up the boundary between humans and nature and extend some type of citizenship to them.

Chapter Twelve: A View to a Death in the Morning

Cartmill concludes that there is no real reason to believe that hunting ‘made us human'. Many hunters continue to use the hunting hypothesis as a justification for hunting, but Cartmill points out that if it really were instinctual and natural more people would engage in it. Cartmill discusses various motivations for hunting, and he asserts that there is a strong parallel between hunting and rape. He states that hunting is “…the rural equivalent of running through Central Park at night, raping and murdering random New Yorkers” (page 239). He concludes by advocating for the erosion of the animal-human boundary, and he explains that the erosion of this boundary threatens the moral foundations of hunting.


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