Mark Twain was born in the Missouri village of Florida in 1835. In 1848, Twain became an apprentice to a printer at the Missouri Courier. Later, Twain started working for the Hannibal Journal and created a series of posts and caricatures. Twain’s works were inspired by civil problems of the 19th century, such as racism and injustice in society. One of their most prominent style choices of Twain was his humorous portrayal of characters and their traits. Understanding Twain’s satire may be achieved by analyzing the main topics of The Lowest Animal, which aims to demonstrate how humans can be viewed as animals that have descended from more advanced species.
The first topic discussed by Twain is the accumulation of resources. Twain mentions that humans aim to earn as much money as possible and never spend it during their lives. On the contrary, animals do not pursue such goals, and so Twain provides an example of squirrels that “stopped when they had gathered a winter’s supply” (Twain 181). Twain believed that humans’ needs have no limits while animals are more efficient and, thus, more advanced.
The second topic is about people who have a need for revenge. According to Twain, animals do not possess any negative feelings, and he states that “the passion of revenge is unknown to the higher animals” (182). This claim serves as another foundation of Twain’s belief in animals’ moral superiority over humans. By providing ironic remarks about people’s inclination to return to negative experiences, Twain proposes that humans have another trait that diminishes their status as an advanced species.
The third topic discussed humans’ indecency and vulgarity in their behavior. Twain attempts to demonstrate that animals have higher moral standards by stating that “they hide nothing; they are not ashamed” (182). Twain ironically mentioned how people have a need to wear clothes, while animals have no need to wear clothes and possess the freedom to express themselves. This topic highlights the animal’s lack of vulgarity and, therefore, a more advanced perception of morality.
Twain’s humorous and satirical portrayal of people’s characteristics provided a foundation for works that explore the connections between society and human freedom. Twain’s essay provided an explanation for why humans may be descendants of animals and how animals possess higher moral standards and behavior. To explain his point of view, Twain used three topics that demonstrated humans’ lack of certain moral qualities that animals possess.
Twain, Mark. “The Lowest Animal.” Letters from the Earth, 1962, pp.179-186.