The novel Lord of the Flies, written by William Gerald Golding, is a remarkable piece of literature that discusses many important topics while remaining an enjoyable read. One of the important topics that is discussed in the novel is human nature. Many aspects of human nature is depicted in the book, but one major is the development of a man's personality and character. This aspect of human idiosyncrasy is portrayed through the development of Ralph, the main character and protagonist of the novel. Ralph's development from innocent, irresponsible, playful adolescent to a tough, self-reliant man shows how the hardships and turmoil of life can greatly effect a person's character.
The story takes place on a deserted island after a plane crash strands a group of adolescent boys. The boys are forced to learn how to live on the land without any resources or adult assistance. The group chooses Ralph as their leader and gives him the responsibility of guiding the group. Ralph's main enemy and adversary is Jack, the appointed leader of the savage hunters. The boys go through many trials and hardships while on the island including the dangers of the jungle, finding food, and remaining a functional group.
The novel's main focus is on Ralph and his experiences on the island. As leader of the group, Ralph has a great deal of responsibility and must learn how to work with this responsibility. Through the course of the story, Ralph changes from an adolescent child to a mature person, but ends up breaking down at the end of the novel. This aspect of Ralph's character is a way that Golding depicts human behavior in society, which is the main theme of the book.
As the novel begins, Ralph is portrayed as being a normal adolescent who is irresponsible and negligent. Even when he is chosen as leader, he still is depicted as an inexperience boy. One example of this childish action is seen at the beginning of the novel when Ralph plays games while doing serious work. By doing things like this Ralph tries to show the freedom the boys have without any adult supervision. These are not the acts of a responsible leader and is something that Ralph soon comes to regret.
With progression of the story, Ralph's attitudes change as he becomes more responsible and mature. He realizes the importance of being a responsible leader and begins to guide the other boys more. Ralph begins to try to convince the others that they act with the groups best interest at hand and tells them to be more responsible. He tells them to build shelters so that they would be safe from the weather. He also tells them to keep the signal fire burning because it is their only hope of being rescued. The other boys do not listen to Ralph's suggestions and begin to act as savages Ralph becomes the defender of civil behavior and common sense.
By the end of the novel, Ralph begins to breakdown after the others ignore his views. He begins act more as a savage and strays from the ideals of civil behavior. His savageness is portrayed in a ritualized hunt of a boy, where Ralph is among the people who kill the boy. In the last chapter, Ralph is the one who is being hunted and must become totally self-reliant. He ends up being reduce to tears as he cries over the "end of innocence." At this point, Ralph's character has totally changed from a boy to a man.
The maturity that Ralph goes through shows how human nature and character can be drastically changed during times of hardship. He evolves from a fragile, irresponsible boy to a strong, self-reliant man. He falls from the pressures of leadership but still learns to survive.