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Albert Raez

Mr. Jefferson

English 3P / Period 4

03 April 2017

Mans True Self


American Realism originated after the Civil War and began as a rejection to

Romanticism. Naturalism is a type of Realism that holds a more gloomy tone to the text by using

observations and the scientific method in the fictional portrayal of reality. In To Build a Fire,

The Lowest Animal, and A Journey, the writers all use realism and naturalism to explain the

underlying theme of how man is inherently selfish and evil.

The short story To Build a Fire by Jack London examines the inhumane actions of man

when faced with adversity in a life or death situation. The story consists of a man and a dog who

are in the middle of a blizzard in Alaska and are striving to survive. While the man and the dog

are strolling through the freezing forest, the man discovers that he is walking on a pond and he

shoves [the dog] forward, and then it went quickly across the unbroken surface .

(London). The man decides to push the dog across the pond in order for him to determine if it is

safe to pass. This act of selfishness illustrates how the man believes that his life is more

important than the dogs, and he is willing to risk its life to protect his own. After this, the

weather ultimately overwhelms the man and he encircled his body with his arms. He sat

down in the snow, and in this fashion held the dog while it snarled and whined and struggled

(London). The man could not handle the frigid weather and he attempts to kill the dog in order to

use his body to stay warm. This act shows how man is inherently evil and selfish because the

man is willing to sacrifice a dogs life to protect his own life in a situation when he is facing
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death. Based on the evidence, the man values himself over any other living species and he

naturally will do anything to protect his life.

The essay The Lowest Animal by Mark Twain addresses the idea of how the

selfishness of man can demote his status in the Animal Kingdom. The essay starts with Twain

discussing the story of an English earl and him telling his men to murder buffalos and they only

ate part of one of them and left seventy one to rot (Twain). The men decide to take the lives

of the innocent buffalos and they only used one of them to eat, while letting the others to rot.

Mans decision to take more than he needs exposes the evil within him by taking advantage of

the buffalos and not taking in any thought about its lives. Twain also discusses about a

hypothetical experiment where many people from different religious backgrounds are stuck in a

cage for two days and he states, When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals

was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes

and plaids and bones--not a specimen left alive (Twain). Twain believes if this situation where

to happen, he would return to the humans in the cage and discover that they all killed one

another. The death of these people show evil man really is because of the different religious

backgrounds and inability to accept one another, which lead to the their deaths. Readers can

come to the conclusion that selfishness can lead to man being evil and this can hold them back in

the Animal Kingdom.

The short story The Journey by Edith Wharton conveys the theme that people are

inherently selfish. While on the train returning home, the woman saw them standing on the

platform with the childs body between them within the next hour she might find herself on the

platform (Wharton). While on a train to New York, the woman has memory about a family that

had their child die on a train and were forced off the train, and she is now paranoid that this may
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happen to her and her husband. The thought of being worried about reaching the destination

rather the life of a loved one highlights the theme of man being inherently selfish by illustrating

the thought process of the woman. While still on the train to New York, the woman felt

herself beset with difficulties too evasive to be fought by so direct a temperament. She still loved

him, of course; but he was gradually undefinable ceasing to be himself (Wharton). The woman

begins to question her relationship with her husband despite the condition he is in, where he

requires all the attention he needs to survive. When faced with diversity, the womans action of

questioning her relationship instead of caring for her husband just displays the internal

selfishness that all humans possess. While it is unpredictable to witness the actions of humans

when faced with a difficult situation, the inherent selfness can express the evil of man and this

can be seen within this passage where the woman fully establishes these feelings.

While examining these pieces of literature, it is evident that these authors all display the

theme of man being naturally evil and selfish in their plots. The act of disregarding the lives of

others is apparent is all the texts as this shows the iniquity of man and how this is relatable to

actions being done to this day. Readers of these texts should take away the thought of man being

evil and selfish, and understand that these feelings are natural and can been in everyone in any

given moment.

Works Cited

London, Jack. To Build A Fire. N.p.: Houghton Publishing Company, 2017. Print.

Twain, Mark. The Lowest Animal. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Wharton, Edith. A Journey. N.p.: Houghton Publishing Company, n.d. Print.

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