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Connor Fitzgerald


English 3p: Per.4

31 March 2017

Literary Analysis Essay

American Realism was a style used in writing that depicted contemporary social realities

and the lives and everyday activities of ordinary people. A subset of Realism would be

Naturalism which talks about survival of the fittest out in nature. One of the most common

themes of Realism would be that man is inherently evil and selfish as seen in the short

stories/essay, To Build A Fire, The Lowest Animal and, An Occurrence At Owl Creek


In the essay, The Lowest Animal by Mark Twain introduces the theme of Man is

inherently evil and selfish .Using satire Mark Twain develops the idea that animals are superior

to humans. He supports this idea by giving examples showing how man is harbor, greedy,

selfish, atrocious and, seeks revenge while also giving examples of how animals are superior by

acting in such manners as humans do. The author states, They killed 72 of those great animals

(talking about Buffalo) and only ate part of one and left 71 to rot(Twain). Humans or Man kills

for the sense of joy, while animals only kill to survive and devour the animal. This matters

because humans inflict pain for the pleasure of themselves and this shows how humans are evil.

Furthermore the author states,I was aware that many men of whom have accumulated more

millions of money than they can ever use have shown a rapid hunger for more,and have not

scrupled to cheat money out of the poor people's pocket.(Twain) Humans will still cheat money
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out of poor families pocket while bathing in cash. Humans steal from their own kind and leave

their helpless fellow Americans to rot. Based on the evidence given it is clear that man is

inherently evil and selfish and will do anything to make himself happy. Humans have a choice

to do the right thing but it is up to them if they follow through with that plan.

The short story To Build a Fire by Jack London addresses the idea that man is selfish

and evil.In the story Jack London shows how the main character tries to survive the harsh

Alaskan wilderness with a sled dog that he has no attachment to. The author states,In the course

of the next two hours he came upon several similar traps.Once again..he compelled the dog to

go in front.(London) This quote shows how the man had no attachment to the dog and had him

walk in front of him to have him fall in the ice holes and not him. The man was trying to put his

only companion in danger so that he may live and that's what humans do almost everyday in

life.In addition the main character states,But it was all he could do, hold its body in his arms

and sit there.He could not kill the dog(London). He was freezing in the forest when he turned to

the dog for warmth and tried to kill it for his own health benefit. Man let himself go and try to

kill the only thing that stuck by his side. Readers can come to the conclusion that humans are

inherently evil and selfish, the author portrays many examples of humans doing acts that hurt

others/animals for the benefit of themselves.

The short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridgeby Ambrose Bierce conveys the

theme of man is evil and selfish.The story is about a man who is a confederate who wants to burn

down a bridge but tells his idea to the wrong person and so only becomes hung by the

Federalists.The author states, Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician he

was naturally an original secessionist and devoted to the Southern cause.(Bierce) He owns
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slaves so they can do the work that he is to lazy to do himself.He wanted to blow up the bridge

so that soldiers could not cross and wanted to keep slavery.When America wanted to move on

from a tragic event from slavery this man still wanted to use his own kind for his good will.In

addition the author also states, No service was too humble for him to perform in aid of the

South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a

civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification

assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.(Bierce)

This quote shows how Farquhar was evil/selfish because he didn't care about what he had to do

to sabotage the North in order to benefit his cause.There is no peace between humans and

humans are the ones to start and end wars.As a result humans seem to have conflict amongst

their own kind.

Thus concluding how authors use realism and naturalism to prove that man is inherently

evil and selfish as seen in the stories To Build a Fire, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

and, The lowest Animal.Humans have a choice to do good or bad. Humans in everyday society

should work together and have world peace.

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