Mark Twain’s Animal World

Illustration from "Roughing It" by Mark Twain. Illustration by True Williams, 1872. (Credit: Gutenburg.org)

Illustration from “Roughing It” by Mark Twain. Illustration by True Williams, 1872. (Credit: Gutenberg.org)

In Animal Farm, George Orwell created an allegory about totalitarianism that put in doubt the notion that a government of animals would be superior to a government of human beings, or vice versa. In his satirical essay “Man’s Place in the Animal World,” Mark Twain left no doubt that a society of men and women is a de-generation from superior societies found in the Animal Kingdom.

The Great American Trickster explains:

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out … and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.

Twain in the lab of Nikola Tesla, spring of 1894 Taken in the spring of 1894, and originally published as part of an article by T.C. Martin called "Tesla's Oscillator and Other Inventions" that appeared in the Century Magazine (April 1895). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Twain in the lab of Nikola Tesla, spring of 1894 Taken in the spring of 1894, and originally published as part of an article by T.C. Martin called “Tesla’s Oscillator and Other Inventions” that appeared in the Century Magazine (April 1895). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Among the human being’s fatal weaknesses which are a cut below customs in the animal world is unthinking patriotism:

Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his.

Twain also points out the drawbacks of our religious lives:

[Man] is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.

After cataloguing our innumerable defects when compared to our animal brethren, he reaches an inescapable conclusion:

And so I find that we have descended and degenerated … insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development—nameable as the Human Being. Below us—nothing. Nothing but the Frenchman.

Here I beg to differ from the Mississippi pilot and the Innocent Abroad. I have found in my travels a species below the Human Being, and even below the maligned Frenchman: it is the Arizona Politician, who lives in a cave in Phoenix called the Legislature.

OG

Illustration from "Roughing It" by Mark Twain. Illustration by True Williams, 1872. (Credit: Gutenberg.org)

Illustration from “Roughing It” by Mark Twain. Illustration by True Williams, 1872. (Credit: Gutenberg.org)

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