What It Means to Be Human

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AP Literature
Final Essay

“The purpose of human life is to love and serve others and to be loved and served by them.” Dr. Dallas Willard, Ohio State University

Of the many mysteries that surprise and delight us, surely the process by which a human being is created is the most common and compelling. But what do we, as human beings, consider a human being to be? Some say a human is “made in the image and likeness of God,” while others defend the concept that humans came from the soil and will return to the soil when they die. Dignity, a conscience, and free will all seem to play a major role in what creates a human being, as well. This notion is argued back and forth between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.G Wells’ The Time Machine. Shelly intertwines the roles of God and humans, while Wells dehumanizes the way we act in the future. Though we cannot pinpoint an exact definition of what a human being is, we may conclude that the meaning of a human being is constantly changing.

The meaning of being human is often questioned and argued over by philosophers and scientists. Some say that humans, in comparison to nonhumans, are self-aware, possess feelings, both mental and physical, and contain flaws that make them imperfect. They are “made in the image and likeness of God,” (Genesis) to be what God wants to see. In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, Victor’s monster, a human-like being with his own mind and flaws, is often the center of attention when this “what is human” argument emerges. This monster, born by the hands of his creator Victor Frankenstein, holds all, if not, most of the characteristics a human being would have. “I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery” (97). This nameless monster is rational, possesses feelings, self-awareness, the ability to...
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