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When Elephants Weep [Book Review]

This is the second time I have read this book.  The first was for pleasure a few years ago, and I finished it recently again because I wrote a summary and critique on it for my English class.  So here is my review, and most of it I took from my paper I wrote for school.  However, I spiced it up a bit for here.  Enjoy!


Title:  When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Elephants

Author: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Synopsis: “From dancing squirrels to bashful gorillas to spiteful killer whales, Masson and coauthor Susan McCarthy bring forth fascinating anecdotes and illuminating insights that offer powerful proof of the existence of animal emotion. Chapters on love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness are framed by a provocative re-evaluation of how we treat animals, from hunting and eating them to scientific experimentation. Forming a complete and compelling picture of the inner lives of animals,When Elephants Weep assures that we will never look at animals in the same way again.” 

ISBN: 0385314280 

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals


 My Review:

Every pet owner will admit to committing anthropomorphism – ascribing human emotions to animals – on a daily basis; I know I sure do!  We can see that our dog feels happy, that our cat feels playful, or that our turtle feels content; most people do not deny that non-human animals share some basic human emotions.  However, in the scientific community, committing anthropomorphism is essentially looked upon as a sin.

In When Elephants Weep, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson challenges people – scientists, researchers, and non-scientists alike – to come to terms with the fact that animals do seem to have emotions.  Focusing on the basic human emotions people are most able to relate to, such as joy, love, anger, fear, shame, etc., this book provides compelling examples of non-human animals portraying and experiencing emotions much like people do.  Some of these anecdotes that Masson provides as he argues that animals do have emotions and feelings include: the love shown in animals who mate for life, the fear evident in the animals’ eyes during dangerous encounters, and the sorrow they feel when one of their kind passes away.

Included with the examples are scholarly explanations from biologists, ethologists, and animal behaviorists of the emotions animals have been seen portraying.  Masson’s theory that animals do experience emotions is backed up by some of the leading people whom have dedicated their lives to studying animals.  While he gives detailed examples, and convinces the reader of his point, he is not biased in any way.  He also provides anecdotes and opinions from acclaimed scientists and researchers whom do not believe animals can feel emotions, and through this, he allows the reader to keep an open mind.

When Elephants Weep is one of those books that you continue to think about long after you have read it.  Granted, I am an animal lover so my opinions toward this book may be a little biased.  However, this is not just a book for those with passions for animals; this is also a book for those simply curious about emotions and how those emotions affect every living thing, and also for those wishing to dive into a world known little by humans.



Purchase it at here: When Elephants Weep


Has anyone read this book?  If yes, what was your take on it?  If not, do you plan on reading it?  Let us know in the comment section below!


*Note: The synopsis was taken from  The review above is written by me.  © Kalie Lyn 2011*


About Palm Trees & Bare Feet

Travel. Animals. Writing. Photography. Books. Movies. Art. Creating. Dreaming. Thinking. Exploring. Adventure. Living.

One response »

  1. Very interesting review. I too have always loved animals. Thanks for sharing Regards.


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