What Is It Like to Be a Bête

Anthropomorphism, Unknowability and Readers’ Empathy in Adam Roberts’ Animal Kingdom

  • Jane Kannegård Ladefoged Aarhus University
Keywords: Bête, Adam Roberts, anthropomorphism, empathy, unknowability, Current Topics in Literature in English


In Adam Roberts’ futuristic novel Bête (2014), animals have been given the ability to speak through an implanted small and seemingly insignificant brain chip. This article examines Roberts’ novel through the scope of anthropomorphism and readers’ empathy, as this particular combination is significant for understanding the novel. The analysis starts by characterizing Graham with emphasis on character development. Hereafter, I examine the complicated way in which Bête deals with anthropomorphism. In the discussion, I bring into question the topic of readers’ empathy and examine how this relates to anthropomorphism. Through aspects of hierarchy, oppression, unappealing characters, consciousness, tragicomedy and contemporary political topics, the subjects of anthropomorphism and empathy become highly obscured in Bête. These aspects come to illustrate that man and animal are not that different and that readers’ empathy does not depend on any particular species or character trait.

How to Cite
Ladefoged, J. (2020). What Is It Like to Be a Bête. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (6), 49-63. https://doi.org/10.7146/lev.v0i6.118860