Since Guns, Germs, and Steel is a work of historical nonfiction, it doesn’t have many symbols. Still, Diamond writes in a conversational style, often using specific events from his life as jumping-off points to talk about weighty scientific ideas. At the beginning of the novel, Diamond describes meeting a charismatic New Guinean politician named Yali, who asked him, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo … but we black people had little cargo of our own?” Yali’s question arguably symbolizes the basic problem that Diamond’s book tries to solve: how certain societies, particularly Western, European societies, came to be so technologically and economically powerful while other societies did not.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Yali’s question appears in Guns, Germs, and Steel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: Yali’s Question
...a “synthesis” of these specialists’ work: he will give a big, overarching answer to Yali’s question. Diamond then gives a thesis statement for his book: “History followed different courses for different... (full context)
Epilogue: The Future of Human History as Science