A Gorilla in the Guest Room – Summary

A Gorilla in the Guest Room by Gerald Durrell is a humongous tale of the narrator’s decision to enhance the zoo from a mere show-place of animals into a conservation of wildlife place.


The protagonist in the story is a baby gorilla named N’ Pongo, who becomes the first animal towards conservation of endangered species, to be kept in the zoo and taken care of.

N’ Pongo was not an easy win for the narrator. It involved convincing the rich people of the Jersey Island for financial support and bearing the protest from his wife Jacquie. Eventually, the gorilla was handed over to the narrator by the dealer at the London airport. N’ Pongo was about eighteen inches high and a quite handsome and healthy looking baby gorilla. His light-chocolate coloured fur was soft and thick, the skin on his hand, feet and face was soft and glossy. He had small, deep-set tinkling eyes. An extrovert looking gorilla that he was, he soon happened to bond with the narrator, wriggling about in his arms.

N’ Pongo was above average than many other apes in terms of mannerism. He ate daintily, watched the surrounding keenly while on his way to the zoo. For the initial days, N’ Pongo had to stay in the guest room of the narrator, for his cage was yet to be built. Pretty soon, he won the hearts of Jacquie and the narrator’s mother. Though initially, the narrator had his doubts about N’ Pongo letting into mischievous acts, for he had a previous miserable experience with a chimpanzee named Chumley, but N’ Pongo proved to be different. His courteous manners and an exemplary conduct won everybody’s heart. Apart from a few minor stains here and there and a broken handle of the door, for he was still a baby gorilla, things were smooth at the narrator’s house till N’ Pongo was finally shifted to his cage.

N’ Pongo had a unique trait of holding a different approach to a problem or a situation and this interested the narrator. For instance, while being put into the cage in order to be moved to the Zoo, N’ Pongo realized that it was inevitable to escapes hence accepted the necessity of being locked up again and submitted with good grace with some initial protest.

Owing to his attractive appearance and disposition, good manners and a well-developed sense of humor, N’ Pongo soon became the darling of the zoo. Every afternoon he was brought out in the lawn to show – off his skills in front of his admirers. Within the span of one year, N’ Pongo grew double the size and the need to obtain a mate for him arose, for it becomes unsafe for the humans around when ‘a gorilla starts jumping onto them’. It can possibly, lead to serious injuries, hence a mate for N’ Pongo was a –must.

So, the same dealer who had given N’ Pongo to the narrator, agreed to obtain a female gorilla for them, though the payment was agreed to be made in installments. Hence, ‘Nandy’ was introduced to the narrator. Her fur was glossy, she was fat and her skin had a sheen like satin. Unlike N’ Pongo, her eyes were large and lustrous. But those were frightened eyes; of little experience with humans, hence she lacked trust and respect for humans. She had a scar on her skull, probably due to being stuffed into the crate, during her journey.

At the zoo, Nandy was put in a cage next to N’ Pongo for the next whole day so that she could get the time to settle and also see her future husband. But Nandy evinced N’ Pongo and the humans at the zoo, hence winning her confidence was likely to be a tough task for the narrator. Though finally, she was put into the same cage as N’ Pongo. All were alert and filled with anxiety about this meeting between the two gorillas. The entire staff at the zoo carried safety tools like water, brushes, nets, long sticks, etc. in order to avert any fights between the two.

The introduction of the two was very dull, with Nandy eyeing everything with suspicion and so did N’ Pongo, for it was a direct invasion to his privacy. Though, as time progressed, N’ Pongo made the move by playing one of his humorous tricks, which left Nandy grunting. By the end of the second day though, the gorillas snuggled up at sleep and N’ Pongo shared his bedroom without any averse. They bonded well, despite being so different in character. They grew well together, with playing tricks and happy giggles. Having N’ Pongo and Nandy at the zoo, with the idea of keeping their species conserved, brought a major responsibility of taking care of their health and well-being. Hence, a magnificent communication system was set up at the zoo as well as the narrator’s house, in order to keep everyone updated about the on-going at the zoo and also alert each other in case of an emergency.

Nandy and N’ Pongo once got diarrhoea but recovered soon. But soon again, N’ Pongo fell severely ill with a form of colitis. The narrator was due to travel to France for three weeks and he was in doubts about N’ Pongo’s health who had stopped feeding himself completely. Eventually, after a lot of efforts. N’ Pnogo felt a liking for watermelon and soon started on his way to recovery. He fed himself with milk, other foods and was given antibiotic injections. By the time the narrator returned from France, N’ Pongo was back to his initial health and greeted the narrator with his same lively, mischievous gestures, as always.