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Human Nature in the Lord of Flies

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Are we as humans good or evil? Are we good and corrupted by society or are we evil and subdued by society? In his book, “The Lord of the Flies”, William Golding explores these questions and conveys in his underlying message that humans have an evil nature that has been contained by society through the law and punishments. Golding conveys this message throughout his book through characterisation and narrative. The Lord of the Flies has confirmed my view on human nature. While I do not believe that humans can be generalized as good or evil, I do believe that it is easy to retreat to primal behaviours when the support of the social structures we have today fall away. 

In The Lord of the Flies, Golding uses the main characters to illustrate his message that if we abandon our civility then we will retreat to savagery and our “evil” primal instincts. Children in novels are usually used to represent innocence, but in this case, Golding has used them as examples of people who have not yet been fully influenced by society and its law, therefore they are more susceptible to corruption. He uses each of the children to represent a different human flaw and/or a different aspect of society. Jack represents human’s base nature; he is aggressive and impulsive. Ralph represents order, leadership and democracy; he is usually trying to keep the boys working towards a goal that will help them and was voted in as leader at the start of the book. Simon represents the good in people and spirituality he takes care of the littluns, he appreciates the beauty of the island rather than hunting and has a spiritual connection with The Lord of the Flies. By using the characters to represent different parts of human nature Golding shows that those who are aggressive and impulsive (like Jack) triumph over those who value order and goodness (like ralph and Simon). Characterization in The Lord of the Flies has been used to show that the evilness of human nature wins. 

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Golding shows the boys loss of civility and their retreat to savagery through the narrative of the book. As the story progresses he uses various techniques to show the savagery within the boys. Whenever the boys stray further from the rules of society, Golding’s description of them become more haunting. In chapter 3 Golding uses imagery to make jack seem animalistic while he is hunting to exhibit his savage personality, he uses phrases like “flared nostrils” and “a hiss of withdrawn breath” as well as describing jack as ape-like. These descriptions create a sense of barbarity in the character of jack and show the beginnings of jacks retreat to primal behaviours when he strays from traditional British values. Golding uses the boys’ chant of “kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood” to show the progression of the boys’ savagery and their loss of innocence. In chapter four many of the boys are joining in with the chant and expressing their excitement over death whereas at the beginning of chapter three jack was the only one who was obsessing over killing the pig. And by chapter 9, when Simon dies, all of the boys including ralph and piggy have joined in, in the chant. The repetition of the chant throughout the book shows the progression in the number of boys regressing to primal ways. Simon’s death in chapter 9 shows how all of the boys, including piggy and ralph, have become victim to their savage instincts. When the boys kill Simon, they no longer see him as a person whom they know but as a thing that they must kill, the killing is one of the ways that Golding expresses his opinion on the brutality of human instincts when the boys kill Simon they let their instincts overcome them. Simon’s death symbolises that the boys have lost touch with their civility and later piggy’s death reaffirmed this. 

Overall The Lord of the Flies has confirmed my view on humanity. Golding was able to express his view on human nature through a number of literary techniques, characterisation and his narrative. Golding has used his characters to represent parts of human nature and society and he has used the narrative of the story to show the progression of the boy’s savagery as they lose touch with the rule-bound society they came from.        

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