What is “human nature”? Do a natural set of behavioral paradigms govern our morals at the most basic level? And more importantly, are those prescribed behaviors inherently good, or naturally evil? The Large Ant by Howard Fast depicts human nature as leaning toward the latter. Many other artistic and literary works seem to take this position, arguing that because humans have the capacity to commit evil deeds, they must themselves be evil. In Fast’s view, humans are naturally selfish and xenophobic, reacting to the unknown with violence instead of simple curiosity. This story, however, presents an overly cynical and unrealistic glimpse of human nature at its worst. Its arguments are often self-contradictory, and in the end, The Large Ant’s critique of human nature proves unjustifiably negative.
The story itself begins in a non-linear fashion. The protagonist muses about the end of the world, and different scenarios that will bring about this end. He eventually reaches the conclusion that humans will wipe each other out. “We could find a way to feed any number of people and perhaps even a way to avoid wiping each other out with the bomb.” the protagonist mentions. “Those things we are very good at, but we have never been any good at changing ourselves or the way we behave” (Fast, 150).
The story continues from there, with the protagonist narrating a series of past events. The action begins with the protagonist, a man named Morgan, relaxing alone in his isolated summer cottage in the Adirondacks. While reading in his bedroom, he notices an extremely large ant-like creature approaching him. Panicking, Morgan grabs the nearest object, a golf club, and beats the “ant” to death. After recovering from the initial shock, he decides to bring the deceased creature to the insect curator
at the local museum. The man’s name is Bertram Lieberman, and, flanked by a government official and a senator, he tells
Cited: Fast, Howard. "The Large Ant." 1960. Imprints 12. Toronto: Gage Learning Corporation, 2002. 150-58. Print. Steven Pinker on the Myth of Violence. Perf. Steven Pinker. TED. Sept. 2007. Web.