Lord of the Flies: The Nature of Man
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a gritty allegory of adolescence, innocence, and the unspoken side of human nature. Countless social issues are portrayed, however one of the most reoccurring is the nature of man. Throughout the novel there is an ever-present focus on the loss of innocence amongst the boys, shown by the deterioration of social skills and their retrogression into a barbaric form of society. Also portrayed is the juxtaposition of a cruel, evil main character and a more classically good counterpart, and their eternal rivalry for power and authority over their younger subjects. Does society or the lack thereof create evil in human nature, or simply magnify a pre-existing condition?
The protagonists of the novel are all boys no older than preteens, all from presumably wealthy backgrounds. When they first arrive on the island, they have a youthful innocence and naivety that wears thin as their isolation continues, turning trust into doubt and ultimately pitting them against each other. As they begin to realize that there is no longer anyone enforcing the rules they lived by for so long, they begin to break what is left of society’s hold on them and search for ways to alienate themselves from conformity: “Denied the sustaining and repressing authority of parents, church, and state, they form a new culture the development of which reflects that of the genuine primitive society, evolving its gods and demons (its myths), its rituals and taboos (its social norms).” (Rosenfield 1). They accomplish this through disrespecting their newly appointed authority figure, Ralph, along with other obscenities such as defecating where they please and participating in violent rituals to release built up rage. As the savagery of their once playful hunts increases, so does their disillusionment with their former ways, drawing them further from the schoolboy demeanor they once had. The prospect of killing a living creature becomes tantalizing to the boys, slowly manifesting into not only a drastic change in behavior, but also a dramatic physical change amongst the formerly refined choir boys. By covering themselves in body paint and disregarding any form of personal hygiene, these young boys begin to morph into savages. They hide behind the masks, creating new identities for themselves in an attempt to avoid the possible repercussions of their actions: “And the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.” (Golding 64). In this sense, they still posses enough integrity to understand that what they are doing is not only morally wrong but goes against the rules put in place by their newly appointed leader. However, they have been so deeply affected by their new found freedom that they disregard their morals and blindly follow urges and desires that their former society forced them to repress. At first, Jack shows hesitation in killing an animal, and despite the perfect opportunity he is unable to follow through. As time progresses, he represses those doubts and insecurities, allowing himself to become a barbaric killer, hunting for joy as opposed to purely out of need, as though embracing his true intentions: “To acknowledge the presence of this darkness in one’s own heart is a necessary but devastating condition of growing up, of becoming fully and yet flawedly human.” (Boyd 1). He then proceeds to lead a younger group of boys away from Ralph, who represents integrity and the upholding of society’s standards, and into a violent, lawless tribe.
Jack, the narcissistic antagonist, represents the new found lawlessness the boys crave to embrace. In comparison, Ralph represents the familiar, comfortable, lawful society that the young boys have known their entire lives. Jack arrives on the island with obvious character flaws, which develop throughout the novel as the world around him deteriorates. They have grown...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document