Guns, Germs, and Steel

Guns, Germs, and Steel Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Fire and the birth of humanity (symbol)

Many scientists believe that the primitive apes became Homo sapiens when they first learned how to use fire. Thus, that moment is generally believed to be the starting point of humanity as we know it today and it is marked by humanity discovering that it can control the environment and the elements around them. Thus, people learning how to use fire is used here to symbolize the birth of humanity.

Upending natural order (motif)

Humans always influenced their environment; archaeologists have shown that they have done so since the beginning of humanity. When humans began to move from one continent to another, they hunted to extinction numerous species of animals. This happened in America but also in New Guinea. The idea that humankind is destroying the environment and that they upend the natural order becomes a common motif in the book and Diamond proves time and time again that humans are destructive and insensitive to the way they affect the environment and other nations.

Land (symbol)

For the longest time, what people desired was to own as much land as possible. Thus, owning land became a symbol for having power. Initially, owning land was directly necessary for providing a family with food, thus ensuring survival. As technology progressed, however, land became more of a symbol for prosperity, rather than a direct material prerequisite for it.

Writing (symbol)

Writing is used here as a symbol for civilization. In the beginning, only a few countries had a writing system developed. The countries that had a writing system were the ones who had the most advanced society and needed a way of keeping track of their business transactions. Writing is thus a prerequisite for advanced societies, as well as a symbol of them.