Themes of "The Lowest Animal"

Essay by mustajab May 2007

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In the essay "The Lowest Animal" Mark Twain paints a picture sarcastically of humans being inferior to every animal except for Frenchmen. Twain exhibits his mastery of humoristic writing. There are three themes that are used throughout the essay: religion, differences between higher and lower animals, and the ability of humans to encompass morality.

First, Twain explains the role of religion in the lives of humans. He describes a certain point in history where religion has been destructive. The first instance is a clash between Catholics and Protestants. He says "The Roman Catholics, by previous concert, sprang a surprise upon the unprepared and unsuspecting Protestants, and butchered them by thousands-both sexes and all ages." (1247). He continues, "At Rome the Pope and the Church gave public thanks to God when the happy news came." (1247). He tries to display the brutality religion represented at that certain point in history.

Later on he says, "He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight." (1250). He shows the hypocrisy that religion can possibly play. In the last paragraph, he shifts gears and explains the human characteristic of intellectuality and religion which all higher animals seem to lack. He says "Even when he himself has imagined a heaven, he has never made provision in it for intellectual joys." (1253). He depicts the fallacy of humans having the ability to reason and think yet they yearn for a hereafter which is void of such. Twain attacked religion because to him it seemed hypocritical, and illogical.

Second, he uses the scientific method to differentiate his observations of the higher and lower animals. This thematic element is used abundantly but only a few will be described. First, he explains the differences in fighting.