In the Animals' Court by Mark Twain: Summary and Analysis

The evidence showed that the Rabbit joined the army by compulsion but deserted it when he had to confront the enemy. Before passing death sentence, he justified that he had not violated the law but obeyed the law of God, which proved that the rabbit is a coward. The court decided that he should be publicly insulted and hanged.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

The evidence showed that the Lion’s strength, courage and endurance had saved the battle. Then the court decided that his statue should be set up, and that his name should be written at the top of the list of famous individuals. Her the Lion, a fierce creature, stands for splendid courage and matchless strength and endurance. These qualities have been considered to be excellent. In the Animals’ Court, power of the lion has been praised. It is very remarkable that the Lion stands in contrast to the Rabbit. The Rabbit was enlisted by compulsion. The Rabbit withdrew himself from the battle field. He was, in fact, frightened. As the law of God denies courage to the rabbit, he could not fight. It is also true that the Rabbit is an innocent creature. The Lion in adverse. He is just like a tiger, very experienced and strong one. That has been described by William Blake in his poem “The Tyger”. The lion is a warrior. He fights and wins a battle. In the Animal’s Court, his act of victory over the battle has been admired and rewarded. He was given a dukedom, post of a nobleman of the highest rank. It has been decided that his statue would be set up for the honour. His name would be written in letters of gold at the roll in the Temple of Fame. It is obvious that the Lion has been honoured for saving the state. He is a heroic figure in the court.

In the animals’ court, the wolf has broken the law that nobody should kill other animals. But he defended that it was his nature to kill. And the court sentenced him to death. The fox in the animals’ court has broken the divine law by stealing. But he defended that the fox should steal according to the divine law. Then he was sentenced life imprisonment.

The horse spent many days without being tempted and cared, in accordance with the evidence. Therefore the court decided that he should be praised publicly. Similarly the sheep has not surrendered to many temptations. So his virtue will be remembered forever.

In the dramatic essay it is often the case that one or more of the characters embodies the opinions of the essayist. The animals in this essay represent particular human traits. For example, the rabbit stands for a coward soldier who runs away from the battlefield. The lion a brave fighter or the great and famous person. The fox represents a cunning or crafty person. The wolf stands for a cruel and greedy person. The horse is hardworking and never does the wrong works. And the sheep stands for the innocent person. The verdict of the court embodies the opinions of the essayist. According to him, the brave, the laborious and the innocent should be duly rewarded. The wicked, and the coward should be punished.

In the animals’ court the animals and the machine were accused. It was said that a machine was poorly designed and badly constructed. But the machine did not do so itself. It moved untimely, out of course, and moved swiftly in public places leaving bad smell behind it. Being a machine, it obeyed the law of its make and was controlled by others. So it was discharged and its personal merit and demerits should not be attached to other set. Here the machine stands for the person who is in the control of others. Therefore he is not responsible for the right or wrong he does. The master who ordered should be made responsible for this.

Mark Twain, a humorous writer, evokes humour in this text, too. In the setting of the animals' court, accusation, giving statements in defense, and then the verdict of the court (sentence and discharge) are usual phenomena. Contempt for authority, folly, pride, and irrational belief can be found in virtually everything he wrote. We can find these things in this text.

George Orwell wrote in "The Animals' Farm" that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Similar meaning is found here. Authority is full of prejudices. Folly is in practices of law. Laws are made for welfare of a community ignoring the interest of majority who really suffer in the hand of minority. 'Equality' for all in practice of law is merely pretension. In fact, those who are in authority and those who serve the authority are secured and all other suffer. Innocent and weak by nature, Rabbit is sent to participate in the war, which is truly beyond his power. Without understanding his power, without understanding his poor condition, and without considering the natural laws, the Rabbit is sentenced to death along with humiliation. The same case is with the Fox and the Wolf. They follow nature and laws of nature, but their appeals are ignored. The Lion, the Horse, and the Sheep who have also followed nature and laws of nature are honoured and rewarded for their deeds. This inequality is result of selfish interests of the community.

Most critical argument has been given in the last part of the dialogue, in the case of the Machine. Reference is to the gun, discovery by man (you), which is more violent and destructive than any other things and creatures. Question arises whether a thing or a creature with some good qualities and some bad ones has right to survive. Yes, these people, by symbolic meaning, survive for the same some good qualities and some bad ones. Others ironically help them work and move. At others' sacrifice, they survive. The ending remark is worthy for interpretation -

You are a pretty poor thing, with some good qualities and some bad ones; but to attach personal merit to conduct emanating (producing) from the one set, and personal demerit to conduct emanating from the other set would be unfair and unjust.

By merit or demerit, one should not be dependent on others for any action or work. It would be unfair and unjust. But what can be done? Man is a machine, without feeling, and moves at others' wishes and interests.

In the Animals' Court

Biography of Mark Twain