Copyright (C) 1996 By Kevin McKillop
Lord of the Flies Essay
Grade 11 Advanced English
A running theme in Lord of the Flies is that man is savage at heart, always ultimately reverting back to an evil and primitive nature. The cycle of man's rise to power, or righteousness, and his inevitable fall from grace is an important point that book proves again and again, often comparing man with characters from the Bible to give a more vivid picture of his descent. Lord Of The Flies symbolizes this fall in different manners, ranging from the illustration of the mentality of actual primitive man to the reflections of a corrupt seaman in purgatory.
The novel is the story of a group of boys of different backgrounds who are marooned on an unknown island when their plane crashes. As the boys try to organize and formulate a plan to get rescued, they begin to separate and as a result of the dissension a band of savage tribal hunters is formed. Eventually the "stranded boys in Lord of the Flies almost entirely shake off civilized behavior: (Riley 1: 119). When the confusion finally leads to a manhunt [for Ralph], the reader realizes that despite the strong sense of British character and civility that has been instilled in the youth throughout their lives, the boys have backpedaled and shown the underlying savage side existent in all humans. "Golding senses that institutions and order imposed from without are temporary, but man's irrationality and urge for destruction are enduring" (Riley 1: 119). The novel shows the reader how easy it is to revert back to the evil nature inherent in man. If a group of well-conditioned school boys can ultimately wind up committing various extreme travesties, one can imagine what adults, leaders of society, are capable of doing under the pressures of trying to maintain world relations.
Lord of the Flies's apprehension of evil is such that it touches
the nerve of contemporary horror as no English novel of its time has
done; it takes us, through symbolism, into a world of active,
proliferating evil which is seen, one feels, as the natural condition of
man and which is bound to remind the reader of the vilest manifestations
of Nazi regression (Riley 1: 120).
In the novel, Simon is a peaceful lad who tries to show the boys that there is no monster on the island except the fears that the boys have. "Simon tries to state the truth: there is a beast, but 'it's only us'" (Baker 11). When he makes this revelation, he is ridiculed. This is an uncanny parallel to the misunderstanding that Christ had to deal with throughout his life. Later in the story, the savage hunters are chasing a pig. Once they kill the pig, they put its head on a stick and Simon experiences an epiphany in which he "sees the perennial fall which is the central reality of our history: the defeat of reason and the release of... madness in souls wounded by fear" (Baker 12). As Simon rushes to the campfire to tell the boys of his discovery, he is hit in the side with a spear, his prophecy rejected and the word he wished to spread ignored. Simon falls to the ground dead and is described as beautiful and pure. The description of his death, the manner in which he died, and the cause for which he died are remarkably similar to the circumstances of Christ's life and ultimate demise. The major difference is that Christ died on the cross, while Simon was speared. However, a reader familiar with the Bible recalls that Christ was stabbed in the side with a a spear before his crucifixion.
William Golding discusses man's capacity for fear and cowardice. In the novel, the boys on the island first encounter a natural fear of being stranded on an uncharted island without the counsel of adults. Once the boys begin to organize and begin to feel more adult-like themselves, the fear of monsters takes over. It is understandable that boys ranging in ages from toddlers to young teenagers would have fears of monsters, especially when it is taken into consideration that the children are stranded on the island. The author wishes to show, however, 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 the idea or belief that man is pathetic and savage at the very core of his existence. Throughout the novel, there is a struggle for power between two groups. This struggle illustrates man's fear of losing control, which is another example of his selfishness and weakness. The fear of monsters is natural; the fear of losing power is inherited. The author uses these vices to prove the point that any type of uncontrolled fear contributes to man's instability and will ultimately lead to his [man's] demise spiritually and perhaps even physically.
The author chooses to use an island as the setting for the majority of the story. "The island is an important symbol in all of Golding's works. It suggests the isolation of man in a frightening and mysterious cosmos, and the futility of his attempt to create an ordered preserve for himself in an otherwise patternless world" (Baker 26). The island in the novel is the actual island; it is not simply an island, though. It is a microcosm of life itself, the adult world, and the human struggle with his own loneliness.
"Left alone on the island of the self, man discovers the reality of his
own dark heart, and what he discovers is too abominable for him to
endure. At the highest pitch of terror he makes the only gesture he can
make -- a raw, instinctive appeal for help, for rescue" (Baker 67).
Man grows more savage at heart as he evolves because of his cowardice and his quest for power. The novel proves this by throwing together opposing forces into a situation that dowses them with power struggles and frightening situations. By comparing mankind in general to Biblical characters in similar scenarios, the novel provides images of the darker side of man. This darker side of man's nature inevitably wins and man is proven to be a pathetic race that refuses to accept responsibility for its shortcomings.
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