What does it mean to be human?

A passage that really struck me is on the bottom of page 23 where Animal claims that he’s not a human being.  This is the beginning of the debate between Animal and Zafar about what it means to be a human.  The question that arises for me is whether or not Animal can really not be human.  Sure he’s scientifically a Homo sapien but does being a human entail more than that?  I think in the context of this book being a human entails some sort of connection to others.  This value, the social aspect of life, is what Animal focuses on when describing Khaufpur, it’s a city of characters.  When Elli Barber describes a district as “built by termites” or “flung up by an earthquake” (pg. 106), she removes the value human connections give the place.  When Animal considers this view he provides us with one of the longest and most depressing descriptions of the setting we’ve seen so far in the novel.  Another instance of losing this social connection would be the “kampani”.  While it is comprised of people, the kampani is definitely not human.  It is a vague, evil force, which has hurt Khaufpur without any reparation.  So I’d argue that a social connection must go both ways in terms of influence.  The people of Khaufpur have no influence on the kampani either in eliciting sympathy or legally.  Going back and applying this criterion to Animal (2 way connection to others) I can see that he can’t escape being a human.  While he may avoid connection to the world at large he needs and values certain bonds such as Nisha and Ma Franci.

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One Response to What does it mean to be human?

  1. Bri says:

    On that same page (23) Animal acknowledges that he wants to walk upright, so it’s clear that “I’m not a fucking human being” is part of his facade. He simply doesn’t want to feel sorry for himself, and it’s easier to resign himself to being an animal than it is to expect human experiences like romance that he may never have. At first I thought he had a Calvin-like attitude toward being human. But he’s surrounded by too many good people for such an attitude to last.

    Aside from connections to others, humanity is also occasionally implied to involve morality. Note how Farouq occasionally accuses Animal of claiming he isn’t human so that he can do bad things and absolve himself of blame. Since the most immoral actions in the book have been by humans (chiefly the Kampani), it will be interesting to see what the book does with this theme.