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The Lowest Animal: A Satirical Essay by Mark Twain

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Peter Sabath

on 18 March 2015

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Transcript of The Lowest Animal: A Satirical Essay by Mark Twain

The Lowest Animal: A Satirical Essay by Mark Twain
Theory of Evolution

According to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, organisms that possess heritable traits that enable them to better adapt to their environment compared with other members of their species will be more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass more of their genes on to the next generation.
Mark Twain uses
(hyperbole, absurdity, irony, humor) to shine a harsh light on humans and human behavior

Definition of satire
: The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
: the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

But what happens when we add a "d" to "evolution"?

: descent or degeneration to a lower or worse state
Mark Twain
(1835-1910) - Collections, p. 373

American author best known for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Journalist, moralist, lecturer, satirist, humorist

Wrote may satirical essays commenting on the human race

The Lowest Animal has references to Darwin's theory of evolution

How are these
examples of satire?

What do you think?
Are humans evolving into better creatures, or are we devolving into more animalistic beings? Can you think of examples to support either side of the debate?
Do the Evolution - Pearl Jam

I'm ahead I'm a man
I'm the first mammal to wear pants yeah
I'm at peace with my lust
I can kill 'cause in God I trust yeah
It's evolution baby

I'm at piece I'm the man
Buying stocks on the day of the crash
On the loose I'm a truck
All the rolling hills I'll flatten' em out yeah
It's herd behavior uh huh
It's evolution baby

Admire me admire my home
Admire my son here's my clone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
This land is mine, this land is free
I'll do what I want but irresponsibly
It's evolution, baby

I'm a thief, I'm a liar
There's my church, I sing in the choir:
{Hallelujah? Hallelujah?}

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my song, admire my clothes
Cause we know, appetite for a nightly feast
Those ignorant Indians got nothin' on me
Nothin', why?
Because, it's evolution, baby!

I am ahead, I am advanced
I am the first mammal to make plans, yeah
I crawled the earth, but now I'm higher
Twenty-ten, watch it go to fire
It's evolution, baby {2X}
Do the evolution
Come on, come on, come on
Close Reading Activity (see handout):

Today as we read, in small groups (2-4 students) you will focus on a specific example of Mark Twain's use of satire in
The Lowest Animal
to make his point about the evolution of the human species.

Each team will be assigned
one of the following topics
addressed in the essay:

Team 1 - Human cruelty/unnecessary killing and destruction (English Earl vs. anaconda, p. 374)

Team 2 - Greed/Hogging food supply/money (p. 375)

Team 3 - Revenge (p. 375)

Team 4 - Sexuality (p. 375)

Team 5 - Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity (p. 375)

Team 6 - Violence/cruelty (p 375-376)

Team 7 - War (p. 376)

Team 8 - Conquering lands/domination/imperialism (p. 376)

Team 9 - Slavery (p. 376)

Team 10 - Patriotism (p. 377)

Team 11 - Religion (p. 377)

Team 12 - Reason (p. 377)

Team 13 - Foolishness/unfriendliness/theological wars (p. 378)
Close Reading Tasks:

Each team will be responsible for focusing in on one of the 13 topics listed on page one. For your assigned topic, complete the information in the chart on the appropriate page. When different groups present, you will also have to take notes on what you learn about the topics based on their presentations during the fishbowl discussions.

1. Locate passage related to assigned topic.

2. In chart, write down example with a key quote/passage related to your group's focus topic.

3. In chart, explain how this is an example of satire (the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, absurdity, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices).

4. In chart, explain how this example advances Twain's point about "inverted" evolution and his purpose for writing this essay.

5. In chart, discuss connection of your focus topic to real world events/issues/problems today in the 21st century.

6. In chart, explain if you agree or disagree with Twain's "unpleasant conclusion" and claim about the human species. Do you agree than humans are not as advanced and "evolved" as we might believe? Do you agree that the evidence suggests we are not really the "higher" animal but the "lower" animal? Are we really at the bottom of the evolutionary rung as Twain suggests and not the top? Are we the victims of devolution? Are we really the lowest animal? Why/Why not?
Fishbowl Discussion/Closure

After working to complete handout, teams will enter the fishbowl to lead the class in discussions about close reading notes and topics Twain covers in his essay,
The Lowest Animal.

Teams share responses with class and enter into a scholarly discussion about how Twain uses satire to make his point about evolution.

Groups take notes on all topics covered, using the guidance from student-teacher teams for each of the 13 points covered in the essay.
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