Copyright (C) 1996 By Kevin McKillop
A running theme in Lord of the Flies is that man is savage at heart, always ultimately reverting back to an evil and primitive nature. The cycle of man's rise to power, or righteousness, and his inevitable fall from grace is an important point that book proves again and again, often comparing man with characters from the Bible to give a more vivid picture of his descent. Lord Of The Flies symbolizes this fall in different manners, ranging from the illustration of the mentality of actual primitive man to the reflections of a corrupt seaman in purgatory.
The novel is the story of a group of boys of different backgrounds who are marooned on an unknown island when their plane crashes. As the boys try to organize and formulate a plan to get rescued, they begin to separate and as a result of the dissension a band of savage tribal hunters is formed. Eventually the "stranded boys in Lord of the Flies almost entirely shake off civilized behavior: (Riley 1: 119). When the confusion finally leads to a manhunt [for Ralph], the reader realizes that despite the strong sense of British character and civility that has been instilled in the youth throughout their lives, the boys have backpedaled and shown the underlying savage side existent in all humans. "Golding senses that institutions and order imposed from without are temporary, but man's irrationality and urge for destruction are enduring" (Riley 1: 119). The novel shows the reader how easy it is to revert back to the evil nature inherent in man. If a group of well-conditioned school boys can ultimately wind up committing various extreme travesties, one can imagine what adults, leaders of society, are capable of doing under the pressures of trying to maintain world relations.
Lord of the Flies's apprehension of evil is such that it touches the nerve of contemporary horror as no English novel of its time has...