We recently read the book Half-Brother by Kenneth Oppel. After we finished this book, we watched the documentary on the actual project, called Project Nim. This project was started in the seventies. During it, Nim learned 125 signs, but only used around 25 regularly. Also, unlike Zan, Nim was more animal like The project lasted until Nim was sold to a biomedical research centre called LEMSIP. At LEMSIP, Nim was used as a test subject, until the center was closed around 1998. After this, Nim was sent to Black Beauty Ranch. The ranch was home to animals that have been mistreated, or have been in research facilities.
There are several differences between Nim and Zan. While Zan was, most of the time, a cute little chimp Nim frequently bit, wrecked things and hurt people. Also, Zan signed often, and used different words and Nim didn’t sign as often. Nim was much more animal-like than Zan. Compared to Zan, Nim didn’t have any close relationships Nim only had the people that looked after him, and taught him. Zan had a closely knit family consisting of Peter, Ben, Sara and Richard.
For me, the most starling thing about the Nim, was how many injuries he caused, and how violent he was.. In the documentary, most of the project workers could rattle off a list of marks and scars they got from Nim. Also, when one person from the project went back into the cage at the black beauty ranch, she was almost killed by Nim. This was way more violent than anything that ever happend in Half-Brother.
The thing I found most positive about the documentary was that, even after all the time Nim spent away from the caretakers, when they came back to visit, Nim still recognized them. The other thing I found positive, is how good of a life Nim had at the Black Beauty ranch. Even though he was alone for most of the time, it is better than LEMSIP.
Also, there are similarities and differences between what happend to Nim, and to Zan. These start when the chips were born. Zan, was taken from the wild, while Nim was taken from a Lab. Later in life, Nim was sold, back to the lab were he was born. Zan was taken to Dr. Helson’s research center. These facilities were both alike in their likeness to a prison. They both used cattle prods, barbed wire and cages. Also similar to the book, Nim was sold to LEMSIP, while Zan was going to be sold to The Thurston Foundation, but was stolen by Ben and his mom. Nim and Zan were both saved from research, eventually. Zan never made it to the Turston Foundation, but Nim went to LEMSIP. He was freed in 1998 when it shut down. He was sent to Black Beauty Ranch, and died of a heart attack when he was 26 . When Zan was bought from Dr. Helson, he was sent to a chimp sanctuary also.
In conclusion, what happend to Nim and to Zan were similar, and different. Zan was more loving, and tender, while Nim was slightly more wild and feral. I think that Zan was more loved, and that was on purpose. I think that that Kenneth Oppel was trying to make a character that the public would like, and be attracted to, not a character that would be ugly, mean and disliked.