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    The Exemplification of Human Denial in the Essay “What an Animal”

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    My essay, “What an Animal”, uses Rick Bass’s “Antlers” to exemplify humanities denial and loss of it’s primal roots, and the confusion that results from interaction with the last vestiges of animal instinct.

    At some point in history humankind invented the notion that we are separate or even superior to rest of the animal kingdom. For centuries since, humankind has denied our nature in an attempt to prove this theory. It is now considered unthinkable that any animal is even remotely equal to that of a human being, and any human who believes that man is part of the animal world is labeled primitive. But some humans no longer understand the primal calls and instincts their bodies still pulse with.

    Rick Bass gives us a quick glimpse of this in his essay “Antlers”, in which he introduces Randy and Suzie, who represent the two opposing poles of human nature and animal nature. “Antlers” places these characters in a world isolated from the modern human world and forces them to face both their inner natures and each other’s. Bass uses the struggle between the two characters to symbolize the entanglement mankind has created for itself when it fights against the natural world.

    Randy is very close to his primal instincts. Like most of the townsfolk Randy hunts, but unlike his peers, Randy bowhunts. Without the ease and advantage of rifle hunting, the bowhunter must be a real predator, one who understands and absorbs his environment and his prey. Randy needs to have heightened senses and instincts.

    Although he gains awe from his peers, he feels separated from them. He doesn’t even understand why he must hunt the way he does, and is somewhat ashamed of the pain he causes his prey. As he admits to the narrator,’ I’m not sure why I do it… I feel kind of bad about it each time I see one like this, but I keep doing it… I know it’s cruel, but I can’t help it. I have to do it (Bass 228). Randy’s predicament symbolizes humanity’s roots in nature as part of the animal world. He is a predator by nature, and he must hunt this way to be at peace.

    Suzie does not understand this logic. She is comfortable only when she feels she has full understanding of and control over her situation. If she feels any loss of either, she tends to panic and react defensively, without putting much thought into how it may effect the environment around her. Suzie has obviously decided that the town is her permanent home and seems to be concentrating on companionship to make her feel complete.

    When the narrator mentions that, “it was always Suzie who left the men, who left us, though I thought it was odd and wonderful that she never left the valley” (Bass 224). Suzie samples all of the men in the town, as if shopping for the one that is most comfortable. She doesn’t appear to follow her heart in these relationships. Instead, she allots an amount of time to each man, then sheds him. All, that is, except Randy.

    Randy feels lonely. He knows he is different, but he still feels the need to be accepted by his peers. Randy “still wishes very much for his chance…” (Bass 224), with Suzie. But she will not date him because she cannot accept the way he is. He doesn’t understand why Suzie shuns him for who he is, and attempts in vain to win her attention.

    Suzie’s seems unable to acknowledge the predatory instincts, So she reacts to Randy with anger and denial. She refuses to be coaxed by Randy’s attempts to gain her attention. Suzie reacts as if she herself were Randy’s prey, which both frightens and infuriates her. She refuses to see Randy as anything but a “cold-blooded” killer. Her refusal to date him seems to be her refusal to accept the truth of his position. She has no logical reason to skip him. All of the townspeople feel that Randy is different, but it may be because his acceptance of his bond with nature frightens them.

    Rick Bass’s essay “Antlers” is a peek into a constant battle, one between humanity and nature’s claim on mankind, that society has turned a blind eye to. The essay explains to the reader, that it is human nature to fear and attack that which is not fully understood, even if it is a natural part of human life. Randy follows his instincts because in his heart he knows it is natural. This frightens the others. But it is a truth that man can no longer ignore.f

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