The Lives of Animals

In the reading “The Lives of Animals” it was interesting to see how the family has different opinions about what is the right treatment for an animal and how Elizabeth Costello is questioned for speaking up for what she believes in. As I was reading the story I noticed that Norma and John seem to be distant from Costello because of the things that she says and is questioned as if she was doing something wrong. Norma thinks that Elizabeth’s “books are overrated”(17) and that “her opinions on animal consciousness and ethical relations with animals are jejune and sentimental”(17). Norma does not agree with the ideas of Elizabeth and doesn’t understand why she’s the one that’s going to be giving a lecture. Also Norma’s actions during the lecture showed that she either was irritated or jealous of Costello since she just couldn’t stand to be at the lecture anymore and just wanted to leave. Costello gives various examples about where there has been cruelty to human beings as well as animals. One of the reasons that people rely on animals is because they have sort of a connection together which is why they become a part of a family. There are animals that are mistreated and their lives are risked just for an experiment without knowing what the results are actually going to be. In the experiment done by the Nazis to the Jews it was done without the consent of the Jews because they were forced to. The Jews did not have an option to choose from and their rights were taken away. They were treated as animals which was devastating to even see while some did not even have food to eat. As a result they ended up hurt mentally and emotionally by the situations that they were forced to go through. The story is implying that animals are just like humans because they have feelings and that their existence is very important. There are people who don’t realize the mistakes that they make by hurting animals or even other people can be dangerous and hurtful. 

Discussion Questions: What was the real intention for Coetzee in writing the story about the cruelty of animals? What can people do to prevent animal cruelty?

What does the tone of Norma say about her during the lecture? Is she justified for her actions?