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Macabre Imagery in 'The Lowest Animal' by Mark Twain

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Mark Twain, living through the horrors spanning from the civil war to racial and religious unrest that was known as the late 1800’s; this somewhat horrendous time drives Twain to write his satirized philosophical essay ‘The Lowest Animal’ by simultaneously using macabre imagery while exaggerating humorously throughout the essay. Twain’s writing reverses the common belief of Darwinism to establish that the nature of humans can be lower than animals; consequently, moving other philosophers and humanitarians to share Twain’s ideal over a laugh.

Although Twain writes on the many social issues of mankind satirically, the amount of gruesome and macabre imagery is found in a large portion of his entire essay. Twain declares “He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight” (par. 14). Stating that humanity holds their own beliefs above their neighbors, and will even go to the extremes of killing him if his ideals are not shared between the two. Twain also declares “There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in the possession of its rightful owner, or that has been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed” (par. 11). Meaning humankind is “the only animal that robs” for their own satisfaction of possessing valuables that they do not rightfully own, and in savage ways will devilishly kill or harm their own kind to possess anything they have an urge for. Twain causes a feeling of disgust by his use of macabre imagery to demonstrate how humans engage in brutal actions that are pushed from their ideals and desires; besides, mankind is the self claiming “best” out of them all.

Twain addresses serious social issues, all while having a good laugh throughout his writing. “He sets himself apart in his country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of others countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his” (Twain par. 13). Twain curls his lip at the thoughts of patriotism and those who follow the ideal of patriotism blindly. Twain states that no matter how right or wrong their country is, patriotic people will promote their country as if it is the best. “His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him, he blandly sets himself as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one” (Twain par. 15). After Twain points out issues that humanity has, he laughs at the fact they call themselves the “highest animal”. He satirizes how man is the most brutal, selfish, and ignorant species out of all species; therefore, humans are the lowest animal. Twain drives a feeling of anger and self awareness towards their actions and how patriotism affects them as humans.

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