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...