True Colors by Grace Shi Animals. It is a word that is often associated with savagery, wildness, and bestial manners. Scientifically speaking, humans are a part of the Kingdom Animalia; our biological processes are strikingly similar to the rest of the Kingdom. However, nobody really grows up believing they are an animal. People tend to classify themselves as a whole new species, isolating themselves from their biological kingdom and depicting themselves as people, not animals.
But how different are we from animals? Throughout time, the evolutionary chasm between humans and animals has grown farther apart, but they originate from the same ancestors – biologically speaking. Ultimately, it seems the distinctions between humans and animals is exceedingly discrete. Although humans try to distinguish themselves from animals, they are more than capable of acting with the same basest instincts, and often demonstrate near-equal levels of savagery.
The sole force preventing humankind from reverting back to this aforementioned animalistic behavior is that of civilization; its essential influence is precisely what prevents our society from tearing apart at its very seams. Typical humans in modern day society live in environments that are seemingly opposite to the more primitive ones the earliest humans lived in. However this does not necessarily imply that modern humans – in their most basic form – are any different than their ancestors, as when they are placed in similar environments they exhibit similar behaviors.
As expressed in the image “Darwin Club” by Rea Irvin, humans are no different than animals in terms of natural behaviors – albeit most humans fail to acknowledge this fact. In this image the depicted people are exposed to a community which is rather similar to the original ones that humans were originally living in. In the illustration, four adult humans are placed in what appears to be an elaborate mansion with high ceilings and glorious artwork. Additionally, they are accompanied by several primates whom they seem to have a substantial amount of interactions with.
As seen in the illustration, there seems to be havoc and chaos; the humans are chasing after the primates and destroying the “fancy” setting. The artist is possibly trying to project the idea that humans and animals behave similarly, and when in this particular environment, the only thing that distinguishes them from each other are their outward appearances. If the author had instead illustrated the humans as primates, it would have been a plausible and expected image. It would not be unexpected or surprising to see humans behaving the same as the primates in this illustration.
This is a quintessential example of juxtaposition; when humans share an environment with their primitive relatives, it is similar to Lord of the Flies when Jack and Ralph, one civilized and one savage person, are put together. Towards the beginning of the famous novel, the more civilized Ralph refuses to behave like Jack – he is incapable of truly understanding the barbaric and brutal behaviors of the other boys. However, he gradually progresses from one end of the spectrum, and joins Jack on the opposite end as he unintentionally begins to adapt to his community.
In contrast, Jack transitions to his bestial form at a much quicker pace, which is one example of the path to revealing natural behaviors. Ralph – someone who appears to be the least likely to meaningfully harm someone – eventually does just that. In this particular scene, “ Ralph, carried away by a sudden thick excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it. “Kill him! Kill him! ‘ All at once, Robert was screaming and struggling with the strength of frenzy” (Golding 128). Ralph’s peer’s influence has risen to such a great extent that the previously innocent and enevolent Ralph has transformed into something he vowed never to be; a monster. Golding later describes his uncharacteristically ferocious feelings in the moment, “[Ralph] was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering” (Golding 128). It is particularly interesting to note that his ideas of wanting to obtain the flesh of Robert was “overmastering”, and at this point, he had intention to kill and hurt someone else. This unprecedented transition exemplifies how everyone contains an inner best – even those that we least expect to.
In essence, the reader’s perception of a character is merely dependent on how long this transition takes. In this situation, Ralph is someone who was previously depicted as a civilized and decent person, yet when put in a natural environment, he reverts to the animalistic behaviors of someone such as Jack. This suggests that based on his natural savage tendencies, he and the entire human race are no different from animals. Left to their own devices, humans are instinctively savage. Ultimately however, the sole factor preventing our race from revealing their true selves is the influence and rigidity of civilization.
Ella, a young girl in the grim short story Pilgrims by Julie Orringer, embodies the epitome of an innocent child being subject to the true actions of human nature. As the reader hears her thoughts, she is depicted as an average young girl who talks about her loose tooth and her observations about how she dislikes meatloaf. However, at a Thanksgiving party, when left unattended, she realizes the other kids her age are erupting with brutal violence. Ella found herself in a situation in which a boy named Peter “[… ] shoved them from behind, and they stumbled forward into space.
There was a moment of terrifying emptiness, nothing but air beneath Ella’s feet” (Orringer,6). In this moment, Ella is in shock of how kids who had seemed so innocent could produce such vicious actions. When these kids are isolated from their parents – whose control is given to them by civilization – they seem to revert to a whole new side of themselves. Without the watchful and often strict eyes of parental figures, these children have the freedom to release their inner beast; the freedom to release the true nature of of humanity. The situation escalates quickly, as the moment Ella parted from her parents at the party, all hell broke loose.
This is similar to the situation the young boys in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” found themselves submerged in. Golding places the boys in a location in which they have a lack of civil influence to keep them sane. ” ‘There isn’t a tribe for you any more! The conch is gone—’ [.. ] Viciously, with full intention, he hurled his spear at Ralph ” (Golding 174). The conch is a symbolic representation of the order and laws the boys have just left behind; it represents the order . However, when the conch breaks, the boys run rampant.
The conch is the symbol of civilization in Golding’s piece, just as the parents are in the grim story Pilgrims. Thus, without the presence of order or civilization, humans revert back to their animalistic selves. It is quite interesting to study, to think, and to observe human nature. Although we pride ourselves in being innovative beings that have evolved to be strikingly different from our barbaric ancestors, it seems that from a biological standpoint we are surprisingly similar. We as a race have developed to look different on the exterior, but we only behave differently in certain situations.
We have parents who try to teach us manners and how to make good decisions. We have laws that keep us in place. We have school that teaches us science, math, social studies, language; all in hope that one day we might grow up to become the leaders of our generalization while utilizing all we’ve learned through our education systems. Although we don’t like to admit it, our natural behaviors when put in the wild are no different than your dog that sits at home. It is merely interesting to think of it this way, but essentially, the only thing that is controlling us is civilization and our communities.