One of the most disputable topics in the world: “Are humans inherently evil or good?” Over the centuries, many philosophers have claimed whether humans are essentially good or evil, yet there is still no definitive answer for this debate. Throughout the novel, Lord of the Flies, the author, William Golding, claims that humans are naturally evil. Lord of the Flies is the story of the group of English kids marooned in the remote island, where no adults survived, during WW2 due to the plane crash. The oldest, charismatic child named Ralph pictures governing his classmates with order and law. Despite having a goal-oriented and fair characteristic, controlling the inherent violence was challenging. In Lord of the Flies, the author conveys the idea that humans are naturally evil, and if inherent brutality is not well controlled, this makes humans susceptible to collapse their civilization, by utilizing various symbols, characters, and settings. The author develops his point by illustrating how the children were overwhelmed by their inherent brutality.
First, the symbolism in Lord of the Flies serves in various aspects of developing the author’s idea. Throughout the novel, the conch was frequently mentioned as a representative of power and civilization. Ralph assembles the group of boys by blowing the conch. They were voting for the leader, one kid yells “Him with the shell” (Golding, 22), then the other kids start chanting his name. Furthermore, when Ralph says “Who wants me?” (Golding, 23), everyone except the choir boys supports him becoming a leader. Surprisingly, the impact of the conch was great; the majority of the kids started to acknowledge Ralph as a leader for having a conch as it is directly mentioned in the quote “him with the shell”.
Furthermore, later in the story, the author utilizes a broken conch to highlight the subside of civilization. Roger launches a huge stone off the cliff, which struck Piggy and the conch that Piggy was holding. As soon as Piggy falls off from the cliff and the conch gets destroyed, Jack acclaims “The conch is gone […] I’m chief!” (Golding,181) There was a clash between Jack and Ralph, which indicates the conflict between civilization and savagery/disorder. During this scene, the conch gets destroyed by the rock, which symbolizes the ultimate failure of civilization. Through this scene, the author proves how civilization is powerless compared to inherited savagery. Furthermore, in the next scene, the kids descend into absolute chaos and decide to kill their civilized leader, Ralph. Not only the conch but also the fear of the beast has played a prominent role in this novel as a representative of savagery and violence. One of the littluns mentioned the existence of the beast in the meeting, which causes the suspicion of the beast to rise among society.
Piggy convoys the kids mumbling, “He says he saw the beastie, the snake-thing, and will it come back tonight?” () Ralph and Jack have a different response to this mysterious beast. While Ralph tries to persuade the kids to overcome the fear in a rational way, by giving the reason, Jack tries to overwhelm the fear of the beast in an irrational way, by asserting they will hunt the beast. This scene dramatizes the conflict between civilization and disorder. Furthermore, later on, this scene illustrates that savagery is slowly getting out of control of civilization by displaying the kids feeling more relief with Jack’s way. Moreover, Golding proves that humans are fundamentally savage by utilizing the truth of the existence of beasts.
The pig’s head on a stick claims that “And I’m the beast” and continues talking to Simon “I’m part of you? Close, close, close.” (Golding, 143) This quote directly refers that the beast is the part of the kids, which indicates that the belief of the beast is related to human brutality. Indeed, the existence of the beast is an imagination created by a birth-mark littlun. Nevertheless, kids are caught up in the identity of the beast and shed the civilization for savagery and disorder. This proves that humans are susceptible to break off the civility due to their tendency. These symbols allow Golding to develop his point: humans are inherently evil, which makes them capable of breaking civilizations.
Additionally, Golding utilizes various characters to portray the effect of savagery on civility. Throughout the novel, there are various scenes that dramatize the conflict between Ralph’s society and Jack’s tribe, which develops the author’s point. Golding employs Ralph, the protagonist of this novel, to represent the civilized society. Early in the novel, Ralph assembles the kids by blowing the conch and becomes the leader. As soon as Ralph gains authority, he establishes a few laws to control the kids, which helps to maintain civility.
In chapter 2, when the kids get out of control, Ralph announced; “We’ll have rules […] Lots of rules.” (Golding, 33) During the first meeting, he observes the disorder, where everyone tries to talk at once. He assumes that rule is the only thing that can control the kids. Then, he declares that the person who is holding the conch will get the chance to speak. Furthermore, Ralph states “like at school”(Golding, 33), which indicates that he pictures managing the kids with the rule and order. Moreover, Piggy serves as Ralph’s assistant representing the last hope of civilization. When even Ralph goes wild in a fight with Jack, Piggy is left alone maintaining the civility, “I tell you, I got the Couch […] You’re acting like a crowd of kids […] Which is better – to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?” (Golding, 180) By stating “acting like a crowd of kids ” (Golding, 180), Piggy criticizes the way the tribe is acting irrationally and cruelly. He, as well, appeals to maintain the civility by asking “rules and agree or to hunt and kill.” (Golding,180) It is apparent that Piggy attempts to persuade the kids by using positive dictions for civilization and negative dictions for the disorder.
On the other hand, Golding conveys that inherited brutality can cause civilization vulnerable to collapse by utilizing a number of characters. Jack appears as a leader of the hunters, representing the inherent violence, also the ultimate cause of the destruction of Ralph’s goal. According to the change in Jack’s behavior, it is apparent that Jack declines to savagery as they stay longer on the island without any restriction. At the beginning of the novel, he was quite supportive of Ralph’s idea, “We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages” (Golding, 42).
In contrast, afterward, by mentioning, readers can imply that the society established by Ralph is remarkably insufficient to oppress the barbarity of Jack and other children. Furthermore, Roger’s behavior demonstrates the inherent brutality, “Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry – threw it to miss.” (Golding, 62) As it is alluded to in the quote, “threw it to miss”, Golding portrays Roger abusing Henry, the oldest littluns, simply to have the purpose of fun, which highlights the inherited cruelty in human nature. In addition, this scene foreshadows the emergence of savagery, by mentioning “Round the squatting was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.” (Golding, 62) This indicates the civilization – which Roger experienced in his former life, such as school, and adults – have restricted his potential inhumanity; however, as they stay longer in the remote island, he is susceptible to descend into savagery. The usage of various characters proves that not only humans are fundamentally evil but also the inherited inhumanity can overpower civilization with weak restrictions.
In addition to the usage of various symbols and numerous characters, the author employs the settings to convey his point. The most significant setting of this novel is that of a remote island, where there is no sign of any habitance. After Jack and Ralph return from the exploration, they realize that “We are on an island […] We saw no houses, no smoke, no footprints, no boats, no people.” (Golding, 32) This implies that the kids have to construct a new civilization with no foundation, which makes it more challenging for Ralph.
To make the matter worse, there is no adult that can restrict the disorder. Moreover, the jungle has served a prominent role in representing anti-civilization and violence. Throughout the novel, readers can imply that the hunters shed the civilization for savagery from the change in their behavior. At their first attempt at hunting, the hunters fail to kill the pig due to the hesitation to commit the violence.
However, as they stay longer in the jungle, they become bold hunters, “Kill the Pig. Cut the throat” (Golding, 114) It is apparent that life in the jungle provokes the hunter’s violence. By the same token, the jungle is the place where Jack forms a new tribe with his companions and advocates after getting humiliated by the failure of taking Ralph’s position: “I’m going off by myself. […] anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too […] he dived into the forest” (Golding, 127) This scene is the turning point of conflict between civilization and inhumanity; Golding demonstrates that Jack’s tribe from the jungle evokes the end of civilization by alluring boys from civilized society, by Piggy stating “I expect they’ve gone. I expect they won’t play either”(Golding, 131) The civility isn’t capable of managing the cruelty of humans: boys select beast, hunting, and violence over civilized rules. The author highlights this by portraying the boys who decide to go to the forest rather than overseeing the littluns and the fire.
Ultimately, Golding uses various literary elements, such as settings, characters, and symbolism, to support his claim: Humans are naturally born with brutality, and it can threaten civilized society if the restriction doesn’t regulate it. We have lived in a society with rules and laws to protect us from human’s inner brutality, yet Golding portrays how humans are capable of turning evil when there is a weak restriction. Any human being, regardless of age or gender, can subside society without a system that controls human ferocity.