Samantha Melling Honors 390 U



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Samantha Melling

Honors 390 U

Response Essay 2

18 February 2011



Human Nature in Looking Backward

  1. What is Bellamy's view of human nature in the novel? Was it consistent or did it shift? How important is human nature to the construction of the new society?

In Looking Backward 2000 – 1887, Bellamy clearly states his views on human nature several times, especially during Mr. Barton’s sermon. The definition of human nature is the ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are common to most people. These behaviors are not varying over time or space, and Bellamy did not view human nature much differently than the implications created by its definition. Human nature has come up many other times in discussions throughout Looking Backward, typically when West is confused as to how certain aspects of life in the new society are possible. Whenever West sees an innovation in the new society he begins to question if human nature has changed because certain parts of life in the new society were not possible in the society he had once been a part of. The political system, the lack of corruption and use of power for personal fulfillment is just one of these situations.

Bellamy does not think that human nature can, has, or will change. It is completely and verifiably consistent. The only things that could possibly affect human nature are the conditions surrounding the people. In Looking Backward, West asks if human nature itself has changed in a conversation about public figures, corruption, and demagoguery. In reply, clearly representing Bellamy’s views, Dr. Leete says, “Not at all, but the conditions of human life have changed, and with them the motives of human action” (p. 36).



Bellamy’s view of what human nature is can be disputed based on the section of the story being read. In parts, the story makes human nature seem self-seeking, or more based on the individual, while other sections of Bellamy’s story seem to contradict this. At certain times in the story, it seems as though Bellamy is suggesting that human nature is social. I believe that both of these are two, which gives a reason why they are both part of the story. I think that human nature is very self-seeking, although at times social, and these two aspects of human nature coincide to benefit each other.

The new society is very highly based on human nature. People are expected to put forth towards their community. At the same time, everybody wants themselves to be happy and satisfied. That being said, both aspects of human nature, the self-seeking and the social, come together in order to create the new society. This is the backbone of the new society. People listen to the social side of their own nature and help in the community to make it better. Simultaneously, they are getting back from the community what they put into it, therefore listening to their human nature’s self-seeking aspect. This continuous cycle is very important to the new society; without it, the new society could quite easily falter. Human nature is an essential piece to any society in my opinion. I believe that was also Bellamy’s belief as well, and he displayed that throughout his story as evidence.


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