, Research Paper
Intransigence One of the most important messages conveyed in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies deals with the nature of society. In his book Golding portrays people as inherently evil, a view contrary to most modern beliefs. Golding, unlike others who hold this dismal, view goes to the extreme and through his book shows humanity as a force that purges any elements of good from within itself, allowing only the evil to survive. In Lord of the Flies Golding demonstrates that the ever sought balance between good and evil can never exist outside of established rules, and laws as humanity’s darker side will always assume complete control. The setting for the novel is a small, uninhabited island where a plane has crashed leaving a group of young boys to fend for themselves. Such a setting isolates the characters form society and civilization, allowing them to explore their own personalities. This isolation allows Golding to demonstrate what happens when rules and laws established by humanity disappear. The first instinct of the lost children is to unite and establish an order which resembles the society they have left. “Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things…Let’s have a vote”(Golding 22). The boys are eager to start their new life on the island and divide up common tasks amongst themselves. During this event the group of older boys without hesitation decides to undertake the most violent tasks. “They could be the army-” “Or hunters-” “Jack’s in charge of the choir” “They can be-what do you want them to be?” “Hunters.” (Golding 23)After the tasks are assigned a small group of boys is sent out to verify the assumption that they are on an island. During this expedition the small group comes upon a pig which they instinctively decide to attack. “They found a piglet…Jack drew his knife again with a flourish.” Even though the boys manage to restrain themselves from killing the pig, they immediately blurt out excuses to hide their hesitation. “The pause was only long enough for them to realize what the enormity the downward stroke would be… I was choosing a place…I was going to…Next time-!’” (Golding 31) Their response shows that the evil was already contained within the children when they landed on the island and wasn’t something that developed as a result of their isolation. This evil spreads amongst the boys and later leads to the death of two. As the boys continue to lose the inhibitions from their former lives the three characters who realize what’s happening are in ever increasing danger. Simon, one of the characters representing good, first realizes what is going on during his vision. Being physically weak and susceptible to the sun Simon has the tendency to faint. During one such episode he encounters the sacrifice left for the beast and sees is it as the evil within mankind. During his vision Simon realizes that because man’s evil is so great not even the smallest amount of good can survive. “D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island.” (Golding 145) Simon’s new understanding of human nature and his association with Piggy and Ralph are two main reasons which contribute to his death. The boys claiming to dance to celebrate their hunt injure one of their own number; however when their friend gets hurt they realize what they had been doing. When Simon enters the circle after having his vision the boys’ lust overtakes them and they kill him. Piggy similarly to Simon ends up dying because he doesn’t allow the evil to overtake him. During the final events in the story Piggy attempts to reconcile with the other children even though the probability of acceptance from the tribe is minimal. This act, hopeless on Piggy’s part, leads to his demise as the other boys drop a rock on him while he is approaching their fort. “The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee…” (Golding 181) Through the death of these two characters, who clearly represent good, Golding portrays humanity in its natural state as an evil force not able to let anything good exist.
The final character who realizes the truth about mankind is Ralph. Unlike the other two characters who reflect pure good, Ralph is composed of both good and evil. Even though Ralph sides with Simon and Piggy, and listens to their advice, he sometimes allows himself to be controlled by his darker side. While hunting with the wilder boys Ralph follows his instincts and releases the evil that is within him. “Ralph could hear a tiny chattering noise coming from somewhere-perhaps from his own mouth. He bound himself together with his will fused his fear and loathing into hatred, and stood up.” (Golding 123) Ralph like the other two characters gains insight about the evil within mankind. This happens during Ralph’s personal encounter with the pig’s skull. “What was it? The skull regarded Ralph like one who knows all the answers but won’t tell…A sick fear and rage swept him…Then he backed away, keeping his face to the skull that lay grinning at the sky.” (Golding 185)During this event Ralph sees the evil plaguing mankind; unlike Simon however he does not understand it. He backs away from the skull in fear, not only because he does not understand, but also because he knows that part of this evil is within him. Ralph is similar to the previous two characters in one way; he is despised by the tribe. Even though evil is contained within Ralph the tribe cannot let him survive because of the good he carries. It is only through luck that the last living protagonist manages to survive till a rescue ship comes. The arrival of authority figures is the only thing that saves Ralph from death, and the boys from completing their dreadful cleansing. Golding’s belief, as portrayed in Lord of the Flies, is that people are inherently evil; in his opinion it is only society that prevents people from acting out their natural, killer, instincts. Furthermore Golding refutes the belief that a balance between good and evil can be reached by having the boys remove any traces of good from the island.