Something that stuck out to me when reading Child of God was the comparison of people to animals. There are so many references where people are referred to as being animals.There was the section we talked about yesterday where the baby was called a slobbering primate. Lester was also referred to as sounding like an ape on page 159. There are many other examples of this as well.
What was odd to me is that while the characters in the novel are being pointed to for their animal-like, subhuman behavior, any references to actual animals paint them in a much better light than their human counterparts. They especially seem to be more intelligent and compassionate - intelligence and compassion being qualities in short supply with the human characters in this novel. I didn't see anyone, except perhaps the Sheriff, as being any brighter than Lester. Most were more cunning and not outcasts from society, but they did equally stupid things and showed as much malevolent cruelty as Lester did, although their cruelty was socially acceptable.
My two favorite references that show animals as better than humans are on page 36 and pages 58-60.
pg. 36 - "That reminds me of that Trantham boy had them oldtimey oxes over at the fair here a year or two back. They sulled up on him and wouldn't go till finally he took and built a fire in underneath of em. The old oxes looked down and seen it and took about five steps and quit again. Trantham boy looked and there set the fire directly in under his wagon. He hollered and crawled up under the wagon and commenced a beatin at the fire with his hat and about that time them old oxes took off again. Drug the wagon over him and like to broke both his legs. You never seen more contrary beasts than them was."
pg. 58-60 - "They was a feller up there had this ape or gorilla, ever what it was, stodd about so high. It was nigh tall as Jimmy yonder. They had it to where you could put on boxin gloves and get in this ring with it and if you could stay in there with him three minutes they'd give you fifty dollars. . .
Anyways I got to studyin this here ape and I thought: Well hell. He ain't big as me. They had him up there on a chain. I remember he was setting on a stool eatin a head of red cabbage. . .
Well they got us back there and got the gloves on me and all, and this feller that owned the ape, he told me, said: Now don't him him too hard out there cause if you do you'll make him mad and you'll be in some real trouble. I thought to myself: Well he's tryin to save his ape a whippin is what he's tryin to do. Tryin to protect his investment. . .
I stepped out and circled the old ape. . . He didn't look like he was goin to do nothin much so I reached out and busted him one. He just kindly looked at me. . .
I think that all through this book, the author's comparisons between animals and humans show humans in a bad light. And the author's scorn for humanity is not reserved for Lester, it spills out to everyone as it is made clear that Lester could be any one of us. Pg. 4 - "A child of God much like yourself perhaps." Pg. 156 - "You could say that he's sustained by his fellow men, like you." Everyone has the ability to be Lester, and for the people who are on the fringe and are unaccepted by society, it is even more likely.