The Lowest Animal Mark Twain Sparknotes


Mark Twain’s “The Lowest Animal” is a scathing commentary on humanity’s place in the world. In it, he argues that humans are not the highest form of life, but instead are the lowest. He cites various examples to back up his claim, including our propensity for violence and warfare, as well as our treatment of animals. Ultimately, he concludes that we are not worthy of the title “the highest animal”, and that we should instead be called “the lowest animal”.

In “The Lowest Animal,” Mark Twain contests man’s pre-eminence in Earth’s social hierarchy. Twain expresses his viewpoint as a scientist who conducts various experiments on people and animals to determine which is the “lowest animal.” He demonstrates that humans are cruel, wasteful, and the lowest species on earth. To support his view that people are not superior to any other animal, Twain employs human behavior and behavior.

Humans are often considered the most intelligent creatures on Earth. However, Mark Twain argues that this is not the case. He believes that humans are actually the lowest animals because of their cruel and wasteful actions. In his essay, Twain uses different experiments to show how humans mistreat other creatures and how they waste resources.

One example of human cruelty is shown in the way people treat animals. Twain writes about how humans enjoy causing animals pain, even when there is no need to do so. He says that people will “torture an animal to death” just for fun or out of boredom. This shows that humans take pleasure in causing suffering, which makes them lower than any other creature on Earth.

Another example of human wastefulness is the way we use resources. Twain writes that humans are “the only animal that destroys its own kind” and “the only animal that wastes its own food”. We destroy our environment and kill other animals for no reason, which shows how low we really are.

Quote from Mark Twain, “The hunters] killed 72 of those enormous creatures; and ate part of one of them, leaving the 71 to rot.” This passage demonstrates how selfish human beings are. Human beings are voracious and only consider themselves. Hunting for entertainment is how they regard it. They kill for enjoyment. Instead of cleaning up after themselves or making use of all of the meat from the animals, these people leave them to rot as if the animals had never been alive in the first place.

This shows a lack of respect for life. In another section, Twain states that “man is the reasoning animal”. He believes that humans are the only creatures on Earth that can think and reason. However, he also says that “none has ever invented a psychological instrument capable of measuring the degree to which each creature is endowed with this capacity”. In other words, we can never really know how intelligent animals are because we cannot communicate with them. We can only make assumptions based on our own limited understanding.

Twain goes on to say that humans have a tendency to believe they are better than other animals because they can reason and think. However, he argues that this does not make us superior. In fact, he believes that it is our capacity for reason and thought that makes us the lowest animal. He writes, “I believe that the thinker is lower than the thug, because the former has not only stolen from the latter his goods, but has filched from him his good name as well—and done it with impunity, thanks to a superior mental organization”.

In other words, Twain is saying that humans are able to get away with murder – both literally and figuratively – because we are more intelligent than other animals. We can rationalize our actions and justify them in ways that other animals cannot. This allows us to commit atrocities without feeling any remorse or guilt.

Ultimately, Twain believes that humans are the lowest animal because we are capable of such great violence and destruction. We justify our actions with our intelligence, but this only makes us more dangerous. We are the only creatures on Earth that can look at another living being and see nothing but potential prey. We are the only ones that can kill for sport or entertainment. We are the lowest animal because we are the most deadly.

Twain suggests that not all creatures act like humans when he writes, “The grateful [anaconda] crushed one of the calves and consumed it, then reclined satisfied. It showed no further interest in the calves or a desire to harm them.” If the anaconda had murdered all of the calves like humans did, which animal is superior?

The anaconda did not senselessly kill like the humans Twain observed. Twain argues that humans are the “lowest animal” because they are constantly at war with one another. He writes, “There has never been a dispute between two civilized nations that was not due to a violation of somebody’s chartered rights. The charts were drawn up by the aggressors themselves…and they were always careful to make them just broad enough and comprehensive enough to cover their proposed aggression.”

In other words, humans will find any excuse to go to war with one another, whether it is for land, resources, or simply because another country exists. The only time humans will come together is when there is a common enemy, and even then, they will only work together until that enemy is defeated. Once the common enemy is gone, humans will go back to fighting amongst themselves.

Humans are also cruel to animals. Twain writes about how humans enjoy watching animals in pain, whether it be for sport or entertainment. He says that we trap animals and “put them to death in slow tortures” for our own amusement. Animals do not deserve this treatment, yet we continue to do it because we think we are better than them.

It is an indication of its concern for other animals and its selfless attitude. Not only are humans wasteful, but they are also vicious. “Man is the only one who inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it,” Twain stated. Man understands that he hurts others; nevertheless, he continues to do so. Other animals do not intentionally want to harm their prey because they don’t realize it’s hurting; they have no idea what they’re playing with is suffering. Slavery has been a confirmation of human brutality in the past.

Twain argues that, if anything, humans should be classified as the lowest animal because they enslaved their own species. Even though other animals might eat each other, they do not do so for sport or pleasure; humans, on the other hand, have done both of those things. Overall, Mark Twain’s “The Lowest Animal” is a scathing commentary on human beings and their mistreatment of not just animals, but also their fellow man. Through his use of irony and satire, Twain makes it clear that he believes human beings are far from superior to any other creature on Earth.

In conclusion, Mark Twain believes that humans are the lowest animal because we are constantly at war with one another and we are cruel to animals. We think we are better than other creatures, but in reality, we are just as low – if not lower – than them.


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