"The Lowest Animal: Challenging Human Superiority"

Categories: AnimalPhilosophy

"The Lowest Animal" by Mark Twain

Mark Twain's essay, "The Lowest Animal", challenges the notion of human superiority in the Earth's caste system. Through a satirical lens, Twain presents his argument by portraying humans as the lowest form of animal life on the planet. By conducting experiments and observations on both humans and animals, Twain highlights the inherent cruelty and wastefulness of human behavior, ultimately deeming them as the lowest animal on Earth.

Twain's Perspective

Twain adopts the persona of a scientist in his essay, conducting experiments to determine the lowest animal on Earth. Through his observations, he reveals the callous nature of human beings. For instance, Twain recounts an incident where hunters killed a large number of animals, only to consume a small portion of their prey and leave the rest to rot. This act of wastefulness showcases the disregard humans have for other living beings.

Furthermore, Twain contrasts human behavior with that of animals to emphasize his point. He describes an anaconda that, after consuming one calf, shows no further interest in harming the remaining calves.

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This stark difference in behavior highlights the selfless nature of animals compared to the cruelty exhibited by humans.

Human Cruelty and Wastefulness

Twain argues that humans are not only wasteful but also inherently cruel. He asserts that humans derive pleasure from inflicting pain on others, a behavior not observed in other animals. The deliberate act of causing harm for one's enjoyment sets humans apart as the lowest form of animal life.

Moreover, Twain delves into the historical context of human cruelty, citing examples such as slavery.

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Humans have a long history of enslaving others, showcasing their dominance and superiority over those they deem inferior. This exploitation of fellow beings further solidifies Twain's argument that humans are the lowest animal on Earth.

Negative Impact of Human Actions

Despite the belief in human superiority, Twain points out the negative consequences of human actions. From acts of violence to environmental degradation, humans are responsible for a myriad of destructive behaviors that harm both themselves and the planet. Whether it be bullying, murder, or littering, human actions perpetuate a cycle of negativity that defines them as the lowest animal.


In conclusion, Mark Twain's essay "The Lowest Animal" challenges the conventional notion of human superiority by highlighting the cruel and wasteful nature of human behavior. Through his satirical approach, Twain effectively argues that humans, despite their perceived intelligence and dominance, are the lowest form of animal life on Earth. By examining the actions and behaviors of humans in contrast to animals, Twain makes a compelling case for reevaluating humanity's place in the natural order.

Works Cited

  1. Schorer, Mark, Philip Durham, and Everett L. Jones. Harbrace College Reader. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972. Print.
  2. Stanger, John G. English Composition I. U.S.A.: McGraw-Hill Primis, 2006. Print.
  3. Tropp, Sandra Fehl. Shaping Tradition: Art and Diversity in the Essay. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College, 1992. Print.


Updated: Feb 15, 2024
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"The Lowest Animal: Challenging Human Superiority". (2016, Mar 25). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-lowest-animal-by-mark-twain-essay

"The Lowest Animal: Challenging Human Superiority" essay
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