GKC Quote on Cave People

To-day all our novels and newspapers will be found swarming with allusions to a popular character called a Cave-Man. So far as I can understand, his chief occupation in life was knocking his wife about …

In fact, people have been interested in everything about the cave-man except what he did in the cave. Now there does happen to be some real evidence of what he did in the cave. What was found in the cave was not the horrible, gory club notched with the number of women it had knocked on the head. [It was] drawings or paintings of animals; and they were drawn or painted not only by a man but by an artist. They showed the experimental and adventurous spirit of the artist, the spirit that does not avoid but attempts difficult things; as where the draughtsman had represented the action of the stag when he swings his head clean round and noses towards his tail. In this and twenty other details it is clear that the artist had watched animals with a certain interest and presumably a certain pleasure. [I]t would seem that he was not only an artist but a naturalist.

When novelists and educationists and psychologists of all sorts talk about the cave-man, they never conceive him in connection with anything that is really in the cave. When the realist of the sex novel writes, ‘Red sparks danced in Dagmar Doubledick’s brain; he felt the spirit of the cave-man rising within him,’ the novelist’s readers would be very much disappointed if Dagmar only went off and drew large pictures of cows on the drawing-room wall.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (orig. ed. published 1925), pp. 27 – 30

4 thoughts on “GKC Quote on Cave People

  1. Benjamin Ledford

    It seems Chesterton was responding to a phenomenon that was maybe more common at the time, but I think it’s still true, and still lurks in the back of our minds. I find that even for myself, when I picture earlier people – even just pre-industrial people, let alone stone-age people – I think of all the prosperity and conveniences and technology we have that they lacked, and it feels like they must have just been struggling to survive all the time, completely consumed with the most basic human needs. But in fact, they were laying tile mosaics and writing ballads and building cathedrals and developing neo-Platonic philosophy.

    Liked by 1 person

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