“About the nature of human beings. I discovered that confronted by temptation, we will always fall. Given the right circumstances, every human being on this earth would be willing to commit evil. (Paulo Coelho)”. In the novel, Lord of the Flies, author William Golding institutes an unambiguous theme that presents the innate evil in every human being; that of which is deterred by a standardized society through deemed acceptable regulations, laws, and punishments. In the story a group of young english boys evacuate their country due to the danger of the occuring war. However, the plane is shot down crashing on a deserted island. The boys are left all alone with no constraints, allowing evil to flow freely. Leaving human nature to act upon its desires, clearly shown through the temptation of an unconstrained society, it is made evident that people draw away from reason and towards the raw roots of evil.
Foremost, expressed through the concept of hunting, unrestrained evil shows to lead to the violent and hostile nature of humanity. Though meat is not a vital concern for survival, clearly shown through the initial consumption of fruit. Seemingly, Jack holds the desire for hunting as a primary priority. Constantly and consistently foregoing his duties to go hunting, telling Ralph that, “[they] want meat”(Golding 51). There is a bloodthirsty yearning within Jack to kill and destroy; he loves his newfound freedom to act upon his every desire with no fear of punishment. With that he is completely indifferent towards the prospect of rescue and has no desire to return to a structuralized civilization. Therein revealing a profound evil within him that had previously been repressed through a civilized society. With priorities set in different places a split between the antagonist and protagonist forms that completely changes the course of the story. Additionally, there is also an inborn evil in Ralph that is made evident during a hunting ritual. The boys come upon a boar, whom Ralph is able to successfully wound. A supposed mock hunting dance then occurs, which Robert lays victim to, and Ralph can not help but join in. Though Ralph strongly advocates for rescue, civilization, and order he is also attacking Robert showing, “[his] desire to squeeze and hurt [is] over-mastering”(104). Raph being present among savages and absentminded from the desire for civilization, in turn awakes a sort of primordial instinct in him. Though two significantly different figures, it is unquestionable that evil exists within Ralph as well. With the literal absence of constraint the boys have the natural evil reining freely
Continually, the beast is an evil that reveals the true evil nature deeply within the souls of man. Before his complete reversion to savagery, Jack describes hunting, “as if [one’s] not hunting, but—being hunted; as if something’s behind [one] all the time in the jungle”(53). A parallel is made between it and the beast. The act of killing, being unacceptable according to civilized standards, is associated with dire evil that only the cruelest resort to. It portrays the evil within Jack, as he knows that killing is not tolerated in civilized society, but it is something that excites his very being. Undoubtedly, the fear that they have for the beast is what turns the boys towards more violence. A reliance on weapons not only for hunting, but also to protect themselves, evokes their innate evil. The boys are entering a distant reality, in which the existence of an unknown “beast”, and their inability to perceive this, leads them to value violence over morality. Taking the form of the sow’s bloody head there is a confrontation with Simon, in which the beast clearly makes known that it is a part of them. Ultimately, it is the barbaric instinct deep within them. Simon even states, “…maybe it’s only us that we’re afraid of” (80 )? Showing that despite the trappings of an organized society mankind still obtains characteristics that even he can. It is a form of symbolism, that the sow represents the evil and savegry if the boys. The power, a figure which strongly evokes man’s inborn evil to take over. Any ethical or moral concerns are now gone as Jack’s tribe ruthlessly murders Simon, who they supposedly mistake as the beast, but really are blinded by the evilness lurking in their very souls. Simon, being the only one who understands that the “beast” really symbolizes human temperament and who they are inside, having the power to relieve the boys’ fears about the beast, is killed, illustrating that evil is an inescapable quality of their nature.
Lastly, a yearning and craving for power also provokes the inherent evil, allowing for even further detachment from civilization to take place. A struggle for power between Ralph and Jack is present all throughout the novel. Eventually, with his strong influence Jack is able to obtain the upper hand at Castle Rock, still feeling a constant threat to his dominance. For instance, when Piggy speaks at Castle Rock, he challenges the tribe’s savagery. He points out the weaknesses of their society, and compares it to the logical reasoning of civilization, asking if it is better to have, “law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up” (180). Piggy tries to repress the tribe’s innate evil with an intelligent perspective; however, the evil within them surfaces completely on their character and the perspective simply does not faze them. The consuming evil, consequently, leads Roger to deadly violence. He sends a boulder down upon Piggy, which kills him and destroys the conch. Moreover, following Piggy’s death, Jack feels the need to have ultimate control, and the only way to obtain that is for Ralph to die. Ralph describes Jack saying , “You’re a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief”(163)! The ease Jack has in instigating a human’s death as compared to the difficulty he initially has in killing a pig shows that the inherent evil is in fact a natural and growing force. Evil has opened inside the boys, consuming and filling every crevice of their being. There is no longer a voice of reason.
While it could be argued that mankind is not inherently evil, rather it takes them being put in a situation of choice to then decide which path they will take; the reality is that man in it of themselves are undoubtedly evil and that circumstances can only reveal the truth not create a truth. For example, there is a profound and crucial moment when Jack kills a pig for the second time, the boys dance in a circle and sing “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood” (146). This savagery is not simply created by a circumstantial situation, this is who the boys are in their very human flesh. Humankind does not become evil when there is no authority, societal norms, or laws. That may more clearly reveal the truth but ultimately man is evil regardless of time, place, date, year, or circumstance.
All in all, Golding is able to make clear that with the absence of a constrained society, human flesh is free to act in whichever way he pleases. Through the concept of hunting, the idea of the beast, and the desire for power it is evident that the boys in Lord of the Flies reveal a much larger truth about humanity in whole. Mankind is innately evil, there is undeniable in-born bent toward corruption and sin in the heart of every man. Although, the idea of total depravity is not enjoyable for most individuals to hear, denying the truth does nothing. The ending of a life lead in such a way, is inevitable. However, salvation is possible, in asking Christ to be Lord and Savior of life. There is no time to waste rise, go, and the Good and Perfect One to reside in your heart and life forever.
- Golding, William, 1911-1993. Lord Of the Flies. New York :Perigee, 1954.