This article is excerpted from American Hippopotamus, a recent single from The atavist.
In a few generations the atavist and the genius have bred back to the average level.
If the atavist is "wicked," the shark, and the wolf, and the adder are "wicked."
Environment cannot make a model citizen of the "born criminal," or atavist.
For it is not a fault, but a misfortune, to be born an atavist.
But, if the prisoner is an atavist it is his nature to be furious and cruel.
Say the prisoner is an atavist; a man bred back to the beasts.
It puts to death with the same ruthless equality the prophet and the atavist.
1833, from French atavisme, attested by 1820s, from Latin atavus "ancestor, forefather," from at- perhaps here meaning "beyond" + avus "grandfather," from PIE *awo- "adult male relative other than the father" (see uncle).
atavism at·a·vism (āt'ə-vĭz'əm)
The appearance of characteristics that are presumed to have been present in some remote ancestor; reversion to an earlier biological type.