In William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, a group of British schoolboys land on an island after crashing amidst a war. With no adults or supervision required to maintain their school like behavior, one by one the boys let go of their once civil lives and fully embrace the wild and savage nature. Though, in the process they are forced to face their inner darkness that comes along with their new found freedom. Golding emphasizes this struggle through three characters in the book. Jack and Ralph, two opposing leaders with different views of their current situation, constantly fight with each other as well as themselves when faced with moral opposition. Simon, an innocent and angel like boy, faces this evil through a physical manifestation of darkness, a pig’s head, also known as the Beast or the Lord of the Flies. Golding uses Ralph, Jack, and Simon as symbolic representations of the evil in oneself.
The author begins this portrayal of evil through the most kind hearted character in the book, Simon. When a littlelun proposes the idea that there is a beast on the island, everyone is frightened, yet weary of the idea. Ralph decides to hold a night-time assembly to finally settle the matter of the plausible beast, when someone suggests that maybe the beast hides in the water and comes out only in the night. This causes all of the boys to question if a ‘beast from the water’ or any other type of beast actually exists, but Simon thinks in a different manner, saying “maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us”(89). Although the other boys laugh off Simon’s suggestion, Simon’s words are central to Golding’s point that innate human evil exists. He is hoping to convey mankind’s true flaw, that if the boys are in danger of anything, it’s from their own hidden evils. Simon believes that the Beast is a physical manifestation of the boys fear of the unknown and a disaster in the making. Simonis the first character in the novel to see the Beast not as an external force but as a component of human nature. Though he doesn’t fully understand what the Beast is, he encounters this Beast, further into the novel, and his theory is confirmed. After witnessing Jack and his hunters violently slaughtering a pig, Simon comes face to face with the pig’s head and imagines him talking to it, when his worst fear come true when it exclaims, “fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are”(143). The Beast is the most prominent symbol of evil and savagery expressed by Golding. It gives the idea that the evil exists in all human beings, and that everyone has the potential to do many terrible things if the evil inside is not controlled. The Beast uses language similar to the way the boys now talk, further emphasizing the point that the Beast is in all of them. Simon realizes that he too is susceptible to becoming evil and savage, but though he is faced with the temptation to become like the rest of the boys, he resists and tries to tell the others of his recent discovery.
Similar to Simon, Ralph is conscious that there is a greater evil around them on the island, but isn’t completely aware of its power and how it’s affecting even him. This is portrayed when Ralph is able to throw his spear and hit the pig during their excursion to find the pig. He is astonished but full of pride as well, asking and making sure that everyone was able to see this feat. While they are cooking the pig, “Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable, flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering”(115). Golding uses diction, specifically, the word, “over-mastering”, to signify that what Ralph is feeling is something that he can’t control and that it’s taking over his ability to think and act in a civilized manner. The Lord of the Flies is trying to lure Ralph to the darker, more savage ways of living, which could potentially throw everything into chaos, which is exactly what this greater evil is trying to accomplish. Golding wants to show that this evil inside of Ralph is ever present and though he might not realize the enormity of its power, it’s there and can take over any second if Ralph finally just let’s go or is no longer occupied by other problems, such as the his rival chief, Jack, and the need to get rescued. When thinking of the problems at hand, it leaves him vulnerable and susceptible to thought of converting to savage rather than civil. Another example of Ralph’s inner evil trying to come through is shown when Ralph and Piggy head over to Jack’s new tribe to try and convince them the rescue is still their number one priority. Ralph tries to explain that, “the fire’s the most important thing on the island, because, because–” [But] he paused again and with the silence became full of doubt and wonder. Piggy whispered urgently. “Rescue””(142). Ralph is losing sight of what is important, and his mind is slowly slipping away. The darkness inside of him is trying to get him to join Jack’s group, but subconsciously, inside of him, there is an inner battle between the good and evil inside of him. Ralph forgetting their primary concern indicates that his potential to become savage and evil like Jack and his hunters is stronger than he and the readers might think it really is.
Jack on the other hand, has fully embraced his inner evil, performing actions that can only be described as inhumane and savage. With his gang of hunters and himself, he slaughters pig after pig, with no remorse and with no regard for being rescued. After one of their pig hunts, “Jack spoke loudly. “This head is for the beast. It’s a gift.” The silence accepted the gift and awed them”(137). By giving the head of the pig, the most valued and prominent part of the animal, the Beast, Jack and his group are, in a way, treating the Beast as if it is a God and they’re his loyal followers. If the Beast is evil, then its followers are, by correlation, also evil. Since the Beast is just another physical manifestation of the evil in oneself, it’s as if Jack is giving himself and his hunters up to evil and letting it take control of them. Jack’s judgment for what is right and wrong is clouded by his animalistic instincts that have taken over. Furthermore, Jack’s clouded judgement also leads him to completely dehumanizes himself after Simon’s death. Following the ruthless murder, the once well behaved school boys, choose to believe that they didn’t kill Simon, but thinking, “but didn’t we, didn’t we–?”He squirmed and looked down. “No!” In the silence that followed, each savage flinched away from his individual memory…”I expect the beast disguised itself.”Perhaps,” said the chief. A theological speculation presented itself.”We’d better keep on the right side of him, anyhow. You can tell what he might do””(160-161). Not acknowledging Simon’s death and calling him the Beast dehumanizes him, and shows that Jack chooses to ignore the fact that they just killed an actual human being. Instead of mourning the loss or feeling the guilt of murdering a living human being, their decision to avoid the situation and completely disregard the event, proves that the boys have lost all sense of humanity and fully given into the darkness inside of them. They make up stories that, saying the the beast might come and attack them again, to mask the fact that they no longer have the capability to feel loss or love.
For the entire duration of the Golding’s novel, he depicts the evil in human nature through Simon, Ralph, and Jack. Simon symbolizes the pure and goodness that all humans wish they could achieve and become. He is ideal to what we want our civilization to be. He chooses to remain true to himself and his idea of civilization and even tries to help the other boys understand that the evil on the island, wasn’t a Beast, but inside themselves. Ralph is what mankind is like right now. The potential to become evil is ever present but that evil can develop on how that specific person handles their problems and their day to day life. The reason to give into the darkness differs from each person. However, resisting the darkness can lead to temptation and the the only way to avoid either, to know what’s right from wrong and live a lifestyle where the such damage cannot be accomplished. Jack is the symbol of that evil. He doesn’t think twice about making the transition from good to evil or civilized to savage. He lets the darkness control and him and eventually it takes away whats makes us human, our compassion and empathy.
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