Explain why you think Twain's "The Lowest Animal" is or isn't convincing and funny.

Expert Answers
price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In “The Lowest Animal,” Twain uses common human traits, characteristics, and attributes to show how humans are actually the lowest animals on the evolutionary scale. 

Here is a list of some of the attributes Twain assigns to human beings only:

  • Cruelty
  • Greed
  • Revenge
  • Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity
  • War
  • Theft
  • Enslavement
  • Patriotism
  • Religion
  • Reason
  • Foolishness
  • Embarrassment/Blushing

Through his satirical voice, Twain maintains that animals are actually more civilized than human beings because they lack these characteristics. Twain says, “[man] blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot; where as by his own standards, he is the bottom one.” Twain’s theory is both funny (in an odd way) and true. The fact that we think of ourselves as higher than animals that don’t display the destructive characteristics Twain outlines in his essay is comical and also sad. Because of our superior “intelligence,” we have adopted behavior that causes humans to “blush.”  Twain suggests that man is the only animal that blushes and that he needs to because of his behaviors.

When read logically for its underlying message, many readers can’t help but agree with Twain’s testament of who we are as human beings. His theory rings true as the characteristics he suggests we all have cause us to be more uncivilized than the animals we deem lower in intelligence.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think "The Lowest Animal" is both convincing and funny because of the absurd situations that Twain sets up throughout the story.  He wants to show that people treat each other in cruel ways so he upends thoughts that people have towards bad behavior.  How often have we heard someone say something like, "They behave just like animals!"  Twain shows us that, no, our behavior does not follow any sort of natural order in the way that animal instinct operates.  We are more cruel than even the cruelest animal.