Damned Human Races by Mark Twain Essay Sample
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Damned Human Races by Mark Twain Essay Sample
Twain has several distinct stylistic traits. One is his excellent and frequent use of dialect. Dialect is the distinctive way that a group of people from a local area speaks. Certainly Twain has an inimitable style. His accomplished use of dialect is always salient; however there are other techniques that he uses that somehow differ from other writers. Mark Twain’s writing style, Twain—the pen name for Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American writer and humorist, is characterized by broad, often irreverent humor or biting social satire. Twain’s writing is also known for realism of place and language, memorable characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression. Newspaper work in the West. The beginning of the American Civil War (1861-1865) abruptly closed commercial traffic on the Mississippi River. After serving for two weeks with a Confederate volunteer company, twain chose not to become involved in the war. He traveled to Carson City, Nevada, in 1861 with his brother Orion. Later, in ROUGHING IT (1872), twain humorously described his unsuccessful attempts at prospecting for gold and silver during this time and his eventual conclusion that he must support himself by newspaper journalism.
He joined the staff of the Virginia City, Nevada, and TERRITORIAL ENTERPRISE in the summer of 1862. He first began publishing under his pen name on Feb. 3, 1863, while working for the ENTERPRISE. “Mark Twain” comes from a riverboat term meaning “two fathoms” (a depth of 12 feet, or 3.7 meters). Twain’s writing is full of satire and it usually has local color. He was highly influenced by his work on a riverboat (his pen name is the most obvious example, but the Sawyer/Finn adventures are just as clear), by his travels and by the newly-developed detective story invented by Edgar Allen Poe. In the story the damned human race man is usually called the highest animal on the basis of intelligence what? There are several traits:
* The higher animals engage in individual fights, but never in organized masses. Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. * Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed. * Man is the only Slave. And he is the only animal who en-slaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another * Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations. * Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Ani-mal. 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. Hah, we are beasts!
I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the lower animals (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals. In proceeding toward this unpleasant conclusion I have not guessed or speculated or conjectured, but have used what is com-monly called the scientific method. That is to say, I have sub-jected every postulate that presented itself to the crucial test of actual experiment, and have adopted it or rejected it according to the result. Thus I verified and established each step of my course in its turn before advancing to the next.
These experiments were made in the London Zoological Gardens, and covered many months of painstaking and fatiguing work. Before particularizing any of the experiments, I wish to state one or two things, which seem to more properly belong in this place than further along. This in the interest of clearness, the massed experiments established to my satisfaction certain gener-alizations, to wit: 1. That the human race is of one distinct species. It exhibits slight variations (in color, stature, mental caliber, and so on) due to climate, environment, and so forth; but it is a species by itself, and not to be confounded with any other. 2. That the quadrupeds are a distinct family, also. This fam-ily exhibits variations (in color, size, food preferences, and so on; but it is a family by itself). 3. That the other families (the birds, the fishes, the insects, the reptiles, etc.) are more or less distinct, also.
They are in the procession. They are links in the chain, which stretches down from the higher animals to man at the bottom. Some of my experiments were quite curious. In the course of my reading I had come across a case where, many years ago, some hunters on our Great Plains organized a buffalo hunt for the entertainment of an English earl. They had charming sport. They killed seventy-two of those great animals; and ate part of one of them and left the seventy-one to rot. In order to determine the differ-ence between an anaconda and an earl (if any) I caused seven young calves to be turned into the anaconda’s cage. The grateful reptile immediately crushed one of them and swallowed it, then lay back satisfied. It showed no further interest in the calves, and no disposition to harm them. I tried this experiment with other anacondas; always with the same result. The fact stood proven that the difference between an earl and an anaconda is that the earl is cruel and the anaconda isn’t; and that the earl wantonly destroys what he has no use for, but the anaconda doesn’t. This seemed to suggest that the anaconda was not descended from the earl.
It also seemed to suggest that the earl was descended from the anaconda, and had lost a good deal in the transition. I was aware that many men who have accumulated more millions of money than they can ever use have shown a rabid hunger for more, and have not scrupled to cheat the ignorant and the helpless out of their poor servings in order to partially appease that appetite. I furnished a hundred different kinds of wild and tame animals the opportunity to accumulate vast stores of food, but none of them would do it. The squirrels and bees and certain birds made accumulations, but stopped when they had gathered a winter’s supply, and could not be persuaded to add to it either honestly or by chicane. In order to bolster up a tottering reputa-tion the ant pretended to store up supplies, but I was not de-ceived. I know the ant. These experiments convinced me that there is this difference between man and the higher animals: he is avaricious and miserly; they are not. In the course of my experiments I convinced myself that among the animals man is the only one that harbors insults and injuries, broods over them, waits till a chance offers, then takes revenge.
The passion of revenge is unknown to the higher animals. Roosters keep harems, but it is by consent of their concu-bines; therefore no wrong is done. Men keep harems but it is by brute force, privileged by atrocious laws, which the other sex was allowed no hand in making. In this matter man occupies a far lower place than the rooster. Cats are loose in their morals, but not consciously so. Man, in his descent from the cat, has brought the cats looseness with him but has left the unconsciousness behind (the saving grace which excuses the cat). The cat is innocent, man is not. Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity (these are strictly confined to man); he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers himself. He will not even enter a drawing room with his breast and back naked, so alive are he and his mates to indecent suggestion. Man is The Animal that Laughs. But so does the monkey, as Mr. Darwin pointed out; and so does the Australian bird that is called the laughing jackass. No! Man is the Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does it or has occasion to.
At the head of this article we see how three monks were burnt to death a few days ago, and a prior put to death with atrocious cruelty. Do we inquire into the details? No; or we should find out that the prior was subjected to unprintable muti-lations. Man (when he is a North American Indian) gouges out his prisoners eyes; when he is King John, with a nephew to render untroublesome, he uses a red-hot iron; when he is a reli-gious zealot dealing with heretics in the Middle Ages, he skins his captive alive and scatters salt on his back; in the first Richards time he shuts up a multitude of Jew families in a tower and sets fire to it; in Columbus’s time he captures a family of Spanish Jews and (but that is not printable; in our day in England a man is fined ten shillings for beating his mother nearly to death with a chair, and another man is fined forty shillings for having four pheasant eggs in his possession without being able to satisfacto-rily explain how he got them). Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals. The cat plays with the frightened mouse; but she has this excuse, that she does not know that the mouse is suffering.
The cat is moderate (inhumanly moderate: she only scares the mouse, she does not hurt it; she doesn’t dig out its eyes, or tear off its skin, or drive splinters under its nails) man-fashion; when she is done playing with it she makes a sudden meal of it and puts it out of its trouble. Man is the Cruel Animal. He is alone in that distinction. The higher animals engage in individual fights, but never in organized masses. 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, as the Hessians did in our Revolu-tion, and as the boyish Prince Napoleon did in the Zulu war, and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.
Man is the only Slave. And he is the only animal who en-slaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another. In our day he is always some mans slave for wages, and does that mans work; and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work. The higher animals are the only ones who exclusively do their own work and provide their own living. Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy ex-pense to grab slices of other peoples countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between cam-paigns, he washes the blood off his hands and works for the universal brotherhood of man, with his mouth. Man is the Religious Animal.
He is the only Religious Ani-mal. 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. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. He was at it in the time of the Caesars, he was at it in Mahomet’s time, he was at it in the time of the Inquisition, he was at it in France a couple of cen-turies, he was at it in England in Mary’s day, he has been at it ever since he first saw the light, he is at it today in Crete (as per the telegrams quoted above) he will be at it somewhere else tomor-row. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out, in the Hereafter.
I wonder why? It seems questionable taste. Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. 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 up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one. In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves, finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.