The world around us is dark, a dark place, with dark humans and dark lives. Some might say this is a fact, but others say the world is good, a good place, with good humans and good lives. In the stories Lord of the Flies, and “The Most Dangerous Game”, this contrastive opinion is evident. Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of young, English boys who crash on an abandoned island left to survive. While this may seem like the classic survival story, Golding puts a twist on things when the boys begin turning to savagery. In the short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”, the author also demonstrate savagery when General Zaroff captures Rainsford, and explains that he hunts humans as a game. In both Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, and Connell’s 1924 short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”, the authors use symbolism, themes, and the strong-willed protagonists to explain the savagery that lies within each of us in order to demonstrate their own perspective of human nature.
In the novel, Lord of the Flies, there are many aspects of intensity and survival that contribute to this story; one of them being symbolism. There are many symbols to be found in this book that relates to the theme of the story. When Ralph and Piggy find each other on the island after the plane crash, they stumble upon a conch shell. While this may not seem important readers will soon learn that this conch shell was a symbol of unity and leadership. The two fearful boys blew into the conch to summon anyone else who might’ve been alive on the island. The shell worked and all of the boys were united. They decided when the conch was blown they were to have a meeting, whoever was talking held the conch so no one else would talk, only listen. This is a sign of togetherness in that without the conch it would’ve taken them hours, maybe even days to find each other. Also, this small but powerful shell is a way to establish rules similar to a society. Think about it. If our society didn’t have rules we would turn to savagery, but the conch shell was a way for all of the boys to get what they wanted, well maybe except for Jack. With this in mind, the readers can now conclude that the shell will play an impactful role in the plot. Towards the end of the book Ralph and Piggy go to find Jack and his hunters to demand Piggy gets his specs back. This plan quickly backfires and turns violent when Roger pushes a boulder off the edge above them. The boulder crashes down, hitting Piggy and killing him. Because Piggy was holding the conch, it also shattered demonstrating that their last hope of unity was gone.
Symbolism can also be found in the short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”. A profound symbol in this story is the jungle in which the story takes place. While the conch in Lord of the Flies symbolizes unity and the known, the jungle in his story symbolizes the opposite of this. The jungle can relate to many aspects of this story, the first is the chaos jungles hold. General Zaroff is a strange, psychotic man. The fact that he lives on an abandoned island in the jungle gives us a hit that he is crazy. THe jungle is chaotic, which is a symbol to Zaroff’s mind. Connel writes, “Dense jungle came down to the very edge of the cliffs. What perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainsford just then. All he knew was that he was safe from his enemy, the sea, and the utter weariness was on him” (Connel 4). This excerpt not only shows the symbolism of the jungle but also gives foreshadowing of what is to come.
Next, both of these pieces share a persistent protagonist that contributes to the overall theme. Lord of the Flies’ main protagonist, Ralph, is characterized as comforting and brave. We learn early on that Ralph is a natural born leader. I would think of Ralph like a big brother; the littluns are scared and don’t have anyone, but Ralph steps in to make them feel safe. When the boys turn against each other, Ralph doesn’t give in. I think this is an admirable quality in a person. This can show us that humankind is not born evil. Ralph says, “I’m frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home” (Golding ). Ralph shows us how even though he is a strong leader he is still scared. In the short story,“The Most Dangerous Game”, the protagonists Rainsford is characterized as a big-game hunter who is stable-minded, unlike Zaroff. Rainsforded is strong-willed mainly because he doesn’t give up. On the first night of the hunt, Zaroff finds Rainsford easily. Although he was discouraged he was determined to outsmart Zaroff, and make it off Ship Trap Island alive. Connel writes, “Rainsford had fought his way through the bush for two hours. ‘I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve,’ he said through tight teeth” (Connell 13).I believe Rainsford said this to show that he was always ready and aware. He would not give up because it mant living or dying. The chance of survival was so important to both Ralph and Rainsford which is what they have in common.
While the symbols and protagonists are important in comparing these stories, the themes of these stories both leave the reader with something taught, or something to debate. There are many themes to be found in Lord of the Flies, but I feel there is one that relates the closest to “The Most Dangerous Game”. The general theme of Lord of the Flies is the question of whether humans are born savage or if that is an impulse and we are born good; or maybe neither, just a blank slate. I think what concludes the readers to this overall theme is that the main characters are just boys, still growing and learning. This leads us to question, because they are younger had the boys never felt savagery in themselves. In“The Most Dangerous Game”, a similar overall theme is present of humankind vs. our savage instinct. One might say Zaroff was born with savage blood, but was he? Or was Zaroff born good, and society in this war driven time had affected him? On the other hand Rainsford will follow his gut, and right away his gut told him Zaroff was crazy. This leads us to question, was Rainsford like this because he was kept in society, and Zaroff wasn’t? As you can see, the themes in the two stories are very similar in that being taken away from society leads both the boys and General Zaroff to savagery.
The authors of both Lord of the Flies, and “The Most Dangerous Game” use symbolism, a strong-willed protagonist, and an overall theme to demonstrate the savagery that lives in all of us to show their view on humankind’s instincts. These two overall themes connect very closely to each other as well as other literary aspects. First, both of the stories share a protagonists who doesn’t give up, which is part of their instinct. Lastly, while it may not seem as obvious at first the themes we can take away from these two stories are evident. We will never know if human nature is good or evil, savage or gentle, cruel or kind. So my question for you is, “Are we good or are we evil?”