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Lord Of The Flies: Man Is Savage At Heart Essay, Research Paper

Lord of the Flies: Man Is Savage at Heart

Copyright (C) 1996 By Kevin McKillop

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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