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intrepidium's avatar

Stories or books about a character regressing/reverting to a primitive culture?

Asked by intrepidium (1215 points ) September 28th, 2011

Does anyone know of any books or stories (fiction or non-fiction) about someone from a relatively modern world/culture voluntarily assuming, regressing, reverting to a more primitive culture? I think Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness fits the bill but can you suggest others?

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17 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Not exactly voluntarily.

This one probably fits better: Into the Wild Can’t remember who wrote it.

Hobbes's avatar

“primitive” is a problematic term, but yeah, Into the Wild is good (it’s by Jon Krakauer).

Blue Jacket was a European settler adopted by the Shawnee, who later became a militant defender of their lands.

intrepidium's avatar

@WestRiverrat – thanks! I totally forgot abt Lord of the Flies; Into the Wild (I only saw the movie) seemed more like a reversion to a ‘natural’ state (whatever natural means) without involving any interacting with primitive cultures though, but I get your drift…

@Hobbes – thanks for the ref to Blue Jacket – I’ll look it up; reminded me of Dances with Wolves!

smilingheart1's avatar

Robinson Crusoe

Jeruba's avatar

Any story about an anthropologist going to live with tribal people in order to study and write about them.

CWOTUS's avatar

One of the most famous of all: The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Except that the “someone” in the story is a dog, his characterization is nearly human-like, but not anthropomorphized.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

WILSON! ☺ Castaway.

“I… have created… FIRE!”

iphigeneia's avatar

The Woman in the Dunes, by Abe Kobo, is about a man who goes into the desert to find a new type of bug. He stays the night in a village, in a house at the bottom of a massive pit in the sand. The villagers effectively imprison him there, and he tries numerous times to escape, but at the end when he gets his chance he decides to stay.

I think John in Brave New World sort of fits in there, too.

MagsRags's avatar

Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux – it was made into a movie with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren.

lillycoyote's avatar

Never one to necessarily shy away from overkill, here are some lists that people have compiled of some movies, books, and some real life circumstances of people “going native.”

From TV Tropes

From The Straight Dope forum

From some other site

lillycoyote's avatar

@Jeruba In defense of anthropologists, I would argue that they are social scientists who often do field work, field research, using a “participant observer” methodology. While it is a methodology that is not without its critics and it’s controversies, I don’t think it can be equated with what happens to Kurtz in The Heart of Darkness.

:-)

Jeruba's avatar

@lillycoyote, did you think I was attacking anthropologists? Certainly not. I’m just saying that their experiences answer the “voluntarily assuming” part of the question details. There have also been movies that based fictional stories on such narratives. I can’t think of any titles at the moment.

One movie that does fit the bill, I think, is The Emerald Forest.

How about settlers who went from the highest civilizations of their time to the relatively primitive environments of the colonies? Even if they were not living directly among native peoples, such as the Native Americans on the North American continent, they were certainly not enjoying the lifestyle they had left back home in, say, England or France. Terrence Malick’s The New World explores this contrast. As a matter of fact, the beginning of his The Thin Red Line also focuses on a character who has chosen to abandon his former life in favor of a tropical paradise.

Missionary stories such as Hawaii also treat this theme.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Jeruba No, I most certainly did not think you were attacking anthropologists. :-) Your comment just seemed, oddly, a little glib to me; very uncharacteristically so.

Jeruba's avatar

Ok—I was misled by your phrase “in defense of.” Sometimes I do actually try to be succinct!

laureth's avatar

“Voluntarily” is a bit of a stretch for this one, but I very much lurve the S. M. Stirling series that begins with this book, Dies the Fire. Without being too spoilery, I’ll just say to check it out, because it may fit the bill.

intrepidium's avatar

Great suggestions guys – thanks for all the refs! :)

Lunar_Landscape's avatar

The movie Instinct.

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