Sample Anthropology Book Review Paper on Myth and Meaning By Claude Levi-Strauss

Myth and Meaning By Claude Levi-Strauss

Claude Levi-Strauss’s “Myth and Meaning” is a short interesting book that offers great insight into the mystery of the existence of humans. The text in this book can be read comfortably in a few hours due to its wide spacing. It equally makes one think about different paradoxes. For instance, there are several tensions in existence between science, music, and history with myth. In his book, Levi-Strauss addresses these paradoxes in clarity and with much directness. This is due to the fact that the book was first spoken in the English language.

Levi-Strauss begins his book by way of discussion on the drift that exists between science and mythology as well as the reintegration of myths with the present historical knowledge. He defines his personal view on what he regards as “primitive” as well as the “civilized” mode of thinking. In his view, the word “primitive” should be replaced by the words “without writing”[1]. However, societies that are “primitive” should not be thought as backward. Such societies find their sophisticated and symbolic meanings in myths.  Some of the myths used in finding meanings of such societies are discussed in chapters two and three. These include the Pan-American myths, which carry fundamentals that carry a pattern of thought majorly found in the Western world. This is due to the failure in the mental capacities of these societies that arises as a result of lack of the demand for growth and development. According to Levi-Strauss individuals who use observation methods rather than writing are better in the use of their sense of perception. Such individuals, in his view, are in a better position since they possess better mental capacities.

            “Myth and Meaning” contains interesting myths by Levi-Strauss that relate to technology. For instance, the Skate and the South Wind involving the American Indians relates directly to the binary processes contained in computers. Apparently, some of the suggestions offered by Levi-Strauss as the meaning of the myths are unsubstantiated. However, some of them are quite creative and honest. Going through the lecture context, one is able to notice that it is too transient to allow time for one to fully understand the mode of explanation for the myths. The author uses repetition in his writing hence making his work appear wider and bigger.

            Levi-Strauss helps the reader to see the importance of myths in the present world. It is evident that the introduction of science into the world in the seventeenth century affected the acceptance of mythology all over the world. Mythology has for a long time been treated as one that belongs to the primitive minds as well as an outcome of superstition. Presently, with the appreciation of history, the role of mythology is slowly being embraced in the society. “Myths and Meanings” offers insight into the interpretation, meanings and the significance of myths in the modern society[2]

            In his final lectures, Levi-Strauss points out the useful relationship that exists between music and mythology as well as history and mythology. In his view, a myth can never be understood if read word by word. A myth should be treated as a musical stave. On the other hand, a myth is like pieces of history that have broken parts put together to form a story that has a meaning. Its elements are disconnected; however, the joining together of such disconnections brings out a unique understanding of the past.


 Claude Levi-Strauss, Myths and Meanings (New York: Schoken Books, 1979).

[1] Claude Levi-Strauss, Myths and Meanings (New York: Schoken Books, 1979), 25.

[2] Claude Levi-Strauss, Myths and Meanings (New York: Schoken Books, 1979).