The Flies Essay, Research Paper
William Golding, in his novel Lord of the Flies symbolically describes the degeneration of a civilized society. Embedded within the story of a group of young boys struggling to survive alone on a deserted island are insights to the capacity of evil within the human soul and how it relates to the defect in societies. After a plane crash that results in their inhabitation of the island, the boys establish a democratic society that thrives on order, necessity and unity. Slowly, however, the peaceful society that they create shatters through a path of hatred, disrespect, murder and the release of the true human soul.
Many of William Golding’s works discusses man’s capacity for fear and cowardice. Golding wished to show that fear is an emotion that is instinctive and active in humans from the very beginnings of their lives. This revelation uncovers another weakness in man, supporting Golding’s belief that beneath the coat of civility lies the hidden human passion, savagery and an almost animal-like cruelty. Throughout the novel, there is a constant struggle for power between two groups and the struggle illustrates man’s fear of losing control. The fear of the unknown is natural, the fear of losing power is inherited – Golding uses these vices to prove the point that any type of uncontrolled fear contributes to men’s stability and will ultimately lead to his demise spiritually and perhaps even physically.
Lord of the flies used changes experienced by boys on an uninhabited island to show the evil nature of man. By using different characters and various events the author was able to portray various types of people found in our society. Their true selves were revealed in the absence of adults, laws and punishment.
The existence of civilisation allows man to remain innocent or ignorant of his true nature. When the concepts of humanity and civilisation slip away or are ignored, human beings revert to the more primitive, savage-like part of their nature – the fall of the boys on the island clearly indicate this. The early chapters of the book illustrated a macrocosm of man, where the presence of democracy and order suppressed the emergence to the conscious level of man’s carnivorous nature and the catastrophe that would inevitably accompany this emergence. Within the confines of civility, Jack was unable to bring himself to kill a pig because of “the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood”. The overwhelming sense of morality has not yet lost its hold on the boys in this part of the novel – “Only Percival began to whimper with an eyeful of sand and Maurice hurried away. In his other life Maurice had received chastisement for filling a younger eye with sand. Now, though there was no parent to let fall a heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrong-doing.” Roger threw stones at Henry, yet he threw them to miss, as “there was a space around Henry, perhaps six yard in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law”.
The dark and savage facets of human nature begin to unravel with the increase in the boys’ fear of the beast and the realisation that there would be no one to enforce rules and administer punishment upon them. The savage and primitive ways that were previously concealed by civilisation are now surfacing, and all their conditioning is falling apart in face of their primal instincts, and these instincts are deadly. As the novel progresses, the boys’ reversion to savagery is all the more evident. Civilisation separates man from animals by teaching them to think and make choices – when the hold of civilisation weakens, the regression to men’s primitive nature inevitably occurs along with the disintegration of his identity. With the use of masks to cover their identities, the boys were literally liberated from the confines of civilisation and were able to kill and later murder. “He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered towards Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness”.
The boys’ rapid transformation to savagery and inhumanity is mirrored in the series of brutal events that followed – the killing of the sow projected the mass hysteria and the infectious brutality that captivated all the boys with the exception of Ralph, Piggy and Simon. The tribe loses all its features of civilisation and the savagery in the boys had almost reached its zenith during the killing of the sow, however, the pinnacle is without a question the brutal murder of Simon and Piggy, followed by the subsequent hunt for Ralph.
In the increasingly more degenerate society of the boys, the intellectual is lowered to the status of the beast. The barbaric and primal instincts of human nature reached its apogee in the murder of Piggy – executed in cool detachment by Roger. “The storm of sound beat at them (Piggy and Ralph), an incantation of hatred. High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever”. Roger killed Piggy with indifference, coolly, casually, for he no longer has civilisation to fear repercussions from. This act of savagery is quickly followed Jack leading a preliminary attack against Ralph – “Viciously, with full intention, he (Jack) hurled his spear at Ralph”.
When the confusion finally leads to a manhunt for Ralph, we see that despite the strong sense of British character and civility that has been instilled in the youths throughout their lives, the boys have backpedaled in the absence of morality and orders, to show the underlying savage side existent in all humans. “‘They hate you, Ralph. They’re going to do you.’ ‘and we’ve got to be careful and throw our spears like at a pig’ ‘we’re going to spread out in a line across the island, we’re going to forward from this end until we find you.’ “. The methodical method in which Jack displayed his planning shows how cold and distant his mind has gone from the beginning of the novel. The hunt of Ralph is the most savage act of all because it was planned. It was systematically thought out and planned by the savages. Bearing in mind that Ralph was once elected chief over the boys makes the hunt seem all the more savage and inhumane as the boys planned to kill someone who they once considered as a peer.
The boys in Lord of the Flies start in peace and end in hatred and murder. With the exception of Ralph and Piggy, the boys completely abandon reason, civilisation and the thought of rescue. They fight the harmless ‘beast’ that terrifies them, not knowing that something so much more fearful, deadly and destructive lies within themselves. Being human, they have a capacity for evil inside of their soul that is immeasurable and destructive. They never realise this and continue to break their ‘morals’, which were simply superficial rules of society that were fed to them unwillingly. They act upon these morals despite their own thoughts and emotions. The latter is the definition of civilisation. As it wears away layer after layer in Lord of the Flies, the true human soul is bared, naked and fearless.