, Research Paper
Locke s Ideas and the Parallels in Lord of the Flies
In studying the ideological government established by John Locke s Second Treatise on Civil Government (1689), a distinct parallel can be drawn to the contemporary film by Golding, Lord of the Flies. Each piece concentrates on man s struggle with power and his own interpretation of a workable and viable system of rules and codes of conduct. In order to adequately comprehend the nature of similarity between these two works it is necessary to have a firm understanding of Locke s views pertaining to political theory.
In his Second Treatise, considerably his greatest contribution in the realm of political theory, Locke specifically centers his view on a rather narrowly defined aspect of politics; the part, he explains, that is most concerned with The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government. While his major focus of thought in the Second Treatise is the framework of a justifiable and workable government, Locke also establishes the issues and viability relating to virtue. Locke believes the soul reason society degenerates to armed conflict and strife is because of a depletion of the essential ingredients of an individual or a community’s self-preservation. According to the Second Treatise the ingredients include: (1) The right to private property which is grounded in the exercise of the virtues of rationality and industry; (2) The powers of government must be separated because virtue is always in short supply, but prerogative, which depends on virtue in judgment, must be retained by the executive because of the necessary imperfections of the rule of law; (3) The right of resistance to illegitimate government presupposes the exercise of restraint and rational judgment by the people.
Locke also notes the family as the human organization, which is most central for the development of virtue in a governmental association that both reveres and promotes natural freedom and balance. (Locke, 29-34) Locke says that freedom from arbitrary power is so fundamentally essential to man’s preservation that he cannot live without it. The role of the individual and the individual worker must be reviewed within that context. Because a person is naturally free only when ruled by the law of nature, the individual is apparently free from any superior power on earth and from the will of all other men. According to Locke, the liberty of man in society is for him to be under no other legislative power but that established by his own consent in the commonwealth. This means being not under the control of any will, or under the constraint of any foundation of judicial decree, other than that enacted by the legislative power as it relates to the trust with which it is endowed by individuals.
In looking at Locke s view on politics and then trying to establish parallels to the film Lord of the Flies one can discover not only parallels, but also different angles or even some completely perpendicular lines. By this I mean to say that though the statements that Locke has made are proved in the film some briefly agree and some do not at all.
In the film, Golding uses a lot of symbolism to create a metaphorical society to prove his ideas on human nature. The nature of man, according to Golding, is that each person has an inner evil nature poorly covered by society. If the society is taken away, then the inner nature comes out, and chaos and lawlessness will erupt. For Locke, this is the perfect setting to test his theories of human nature and how they hold to his social contract.
Let us take this one statement at a time. In Locke s Second Treatise of Government he develops a theory of government as a product of a social contract, which when broken justifies the creation of a new government for the protection of life, liberty and property. He begins his argument by developing a theory of the state of nature, which is:
What state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man. The state of nature includes the law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone; and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it
In the film, Ralph was voted to be the chief, but even as they built the first fire, they abandoned their responsibilities to serve themselves. The boys start to move away from Ralph and were easily persuaded to follow Jack. One could perhaps view this as wrong and irresponsible but it actually goes hand in hand with what Locke believes, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man. Jack didn t like the way he was ruled and therefore started his own government. Believing that to hunt for meat was what he needed and not to be under a ruler he did not agree with. Locke believed government had more potential for being dangerous, and the individual should rebel if he felt his rights were being violated. Apparently, Jack believed his rights were being violated and by human nature he thus chose to form his own government. Locke considered the nature of governmental man s individual interests as they related to government structure. So on the island everyone had their individual rights and interests, and how they choose to act on that makes for the meat of the film.
Locke paid little attention to the mechanism by which people could make their discussion known. In Locke s state on nature there are also three distinct problems. First there is no established law. As each man consults his own law of nature he receives a slightly different interpretation. Such is evident in Jack s, Piggy s, Ralph s, and even Simon s interpretation on how the boys should stay in order. Ralph and Piggy decided to use the conch as it represents authority and order. The person holding the conch was in control, and thus it became a tool used to create order and rules. Hence, when in use, everyone had to listen. The conch rule, however, was only followed temporarily because Jack had his own interpretation of how to attain power.
Secondly there is no known and/or indifferent judge. This created the problem of trying to decide which was the correct law of nature, which will be followed in an impartial manor. In the beginning, all the boys agreed to allow Ralph to be the chief. However, when Jack showed the boys that they could hunt for their own food, and not listen to what Ralph had to say, the boys soon discovered they could be freer to rule themselves, and thus slowly began to switch sides. But who was correct in their choice of how to rule? Piggy seemed to be the voice of reason. In a symbolic way, Piggy s glasses could symbolize knowledge and insight. For example, when Piggy uses his glasses to create the fire, it was his way of giving advice to the group. However, after the glasses are broken, the group loses that insight they had.
Thirdly there is an insufficient force of execution. This is the problem of how to carry out the decision of the law of nature on one of his peers when he has a different interpretation or doesn t consult the law of nature. Jack took it upon himself to spank the boys as shown in the film. The war on the island is just a model of the larger war that is going on all over the world during the story. World War II was fought because the human race could not share power and resources fairly. The war on the island in The Lord of the Flies is fought because the boys cannot find a way to simply share power, resources, and accountability. They couldn t work together, and couldn t share in Piggy s glasses for lighting fires when they were apart. Jack could not provide meat without using it to get more power. Humanity is rarely peaceful and harmonious. Humanity kills itself because that is its nature.
Locke states that the three problems in the state of nature would be best solved by coming together to form a new government to protect their property. The great and chief end therefore, of men s coming into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property. (Locke) And goes further into what this new government should be empowered to do firstly established, settled known law, received and allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to decide all controversies between them secondly There wants a known and indifferent judge, with authority to determine all differences according to the established law thirdly There often wants power to back and support the sentence when right, and to give it due execution. They, who by any injustice offend, will seldom fail, where they are able, by force to make good their injustice. (Locke)
In Locke s government men only give up the right to the above mentioned things,to create the law for themselves, to judge the law for themselves, and to execute the lawfor themselves. These are the only rights that the government has the right to interfere inas it is the only reason that people entered into a commonwealth. Locke also explains thenew social contract that the new government should operate under. The first point of the contract is that the people agree to form a body politic, in which the majority rules.
Which is what the boys did in the beginning with taking a vote between Jack and Ralph and Ralph won by majority rules.
Second the body politic selects a government of the day. (Elects people on
a regular basis to the government to legislate the law) Locke laid out who should be allowed the right to vote, who shouldn t be allowed to vote and gives his reason why.
All men as members for the purposes of being ruled and only men of
estate as members for the prepossess of ruling. The right to rule (more accurately,
the right to control any government) is given to the men of estate only: it is they who are given the decisive voice about taxation, without which no government can subsist. On the other hand, the obligation to be bound by law and subject to the lawful government is fixed on all men whether or not they have property in the sense of estate, and indeed whether or not they have made an express compact. (Locke)
In this situation the land was for the taking and others (Jack) felt it to be their God given right to do as they pleased with it. In their case Jack destroyed the island by burning it down and abusing that right. God did not create anything for man to destroy. The amount produced by any man should be kept in check by his level of destruction. For example, there is a difference between the cutting of one or a few trees and the harvesting of an entire forest. Specific rights comes in conjunction with this restriction. Since Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy, the property making function of man s activities ought to be cured at the point of spoilage. If my acquisition spoils, I offend against the law of nature, since I have, in the beginning, no Right further than my use. What is useful and is used has value and the person who uses them has a right to them. The same rules are cited for land as for the produce of land.
Jack definitely did not use the land for his needs he used in excess. There for proving that Jack may have the element of human nature he took his god given right and pushed it over the edge. So it is human nature to use what we are given and then to abuse it when we are put back into nature?
Society defects are traceable to human nature and human nature has essential flaws and defects within itself. Noting the fact that humans have the capacity for distinct evil. Underneath the facade of civilization, advancement, and education, humankind is savage, competitive, and barbaric. All elements in civilization and on the island are guilty of this. The boys, the general population, are easily convinced to follow ruthless leaders. Those ruthless leaders are obviously terrible, but are still tolerated and even believed. Even good leaders and educated, reasonable people, often listen too much to their fears and participate somehow in the savagery. The world is filled with war, and new people learn to continue this primitive, instinctive behavior on the boys’ island and in the world. For these reasons, The Lord of the Flies makes the suggestion that humans are savage and barbaric, having learned little from civilization. Perhaps this idea should be more strongly shown to the world, to deliver the same message that Simon ever got the chance to convey.