One could argue that The One and Only Ivan is a novel of fantasy, maybe even fable. The fact that animals can speak seems unreal and gives the impression it is a fable. The reader connects with these talking animals and develops empathy for them. One could also argue that there are two rival groups, animals and humans. Due to the fact that the reader only hears the animals’ feelings, he is more connected to the plight of the animals. Furthermore, the story provides the reader with a lesson, as every fable does: you can achieve your goals if you believe in them! Moreover, the reader becomes aware of animals as living beings with feelings that should not be treated as objects. Even though The One and Only Ivan has a meaningful and serious message, there are still funny elements to the story. Humans are portrayed through the eyes of the animals, and much of their behaviour appears strange or comical as a result.
While we can see this novel as a fable, it is actually based upon real events. This adds resonance and depth to the story: it is not just a fantastical creation, but the work of one author to try articulate the horrors of animal captivity through fiction.