“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scrounge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
Golding’s life experiences exposed him to the worst of mankind. Having lived through both world wars; Goldings observations of mankind’s negative cycle of power and destruction served as a catalyst for writing a novel to warn others of the danger of power. Golding exposes man-kinds inevitable path to destruction through his warnings of power and how it’s all consuming nature leads to conflict and the certain destruction of humanity. Golding uses techniques such as characterisation, allegories and symbolism to educate his audience about these warnings. Lord of the Flies wasn’t written to entertain but to inform and educate. Golding shines a light on the true nature of humans, our obsession with power and the consequences of wreck less behaviour.
Have a think of the most powerful political leaders of the last 100 years. Hitler, Stalin, Ho Chi Min, Mussolini, Chairman Mao, Genghis Khan and Trump. Why do we remember them? These leaders were consumed by power and greatly abused it. Golding warns his reader of the all-consuming nature of power through the powerful characterisation of Jack and his actions as a result of power.
Golding presents Jack to us in a way that exposes his true nature and hunger for power. Jack believes that he is entitled and ‘ought to be chief’ and jumps at it first chance he gets. The loss as chief still gives Jack control and the opportunity to impose his violent nature on the island through hunting. What are the results of this control? Jack’s strong character traits reiterate the themes of the novel. Jack’s desire for power turns savage and gives birth to a symbolic ritual that threads though the entirety of the novel. The island is filled with the violent cheers of the hunters… “kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!” Jack’s controlling and violent nature intimidates the boys. He uses this chant to gain authority and power over not only the others but of nature and the island itself. How is the chant used to intimidate the authority? Noise becomes a symbol of disorder, savagery and dictatorship as Ralph can’t control the chant or Jack. Jacks disturbing thoughts and violent urges are common within powerful dictators throughout history as he is a pure representation of all the evil in our world. Jack enjoys the feeling as “they closed in on the struggling pig, with knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink”. Golding’s characterisation of Jack opens at the very beginning of the novel, the audience perceives him as a powerful, strong and cruel character. The atmosphere of the island exposes his violent and savage behaviour and cause them to rise up and become his most dominant traits similar to those of Hitler, Stalin and other dictators in the past. Golding wrote this novel with the intention to educate. He wanted to bring the truth about power into the light and show its all-consuming nature. Golding himself lived through the devastating consequences of power being wrongly allocated and saw how many men and women died as a result.
We set our scene on a picture-perfect fruitful island in the middle of the pacific. But why? What is the island? What is its purpose? Golding uses the island to warn his audience of the connection between power, destruction and conflict. Is the island a microcosm of the real world? Is it the garden of Eden or just another conquest for mankind to destroy? Well, Golding intends for the island to be all of the above. The island begins as an untouched paradise. They had “the lagoon, the platform and the mountain of the island.” As the boys settle in they claim the island, they smother it with the disease of mankind, “smashing deep holes into the canopy”, Ralph recognises the destruction they have caused “That’s where we landed.” “Beyond falls and cliffs there was a gash visible in the trees…leaving only a fringe of palm between the scar and the sea.” This deterioration of the island is a direct correlation between the boys decline into savagery and an island ruled by dictatorship and savagery. We see how desire for control is common between both symbolic political powers in the novel as Jack and Ralph fight for power over the island. Fire is a sacred symbol on the island that is controlled by whomever is in power and soon becomes a tool of power and manipulation and as learned in the past; power is hard to control. Fire is a symbol of hope, destruction and power for the boys. As the novel ends and we witness the peak of conflict, with the death of Piggy and Simon it becomes evident that mankind’s downfall isn’t far off. “The island was on fire.”, “What would they eat tomorrow?”. The island burns, fuelled by the flames of power and control. As the garden of Eden did for the sins of humanity. The island burns as the fields of France in WW1, as the millions of Jews did in WW2. As it has before and will do again. As the novel ends and Ralph watched the “burning wreckage of the island” and “wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart”. This is Goldings final message. This is what power does, this is the real truth that we are so afraid of. This is the warning Golding intended to share, to show the destructive behaviour of power and how it will always result in conflict.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This is what I believe the novels most central message in Lord of the Flies is. That humankind will battle through untold hardships victorious but will forever fall to the cruel nature of power. The Lord of the Flies is a novel about more than some boys on an island, it is a cautionary but beautiful warning about power and how it’s all consuming nature leads to conflict and eventually the certain fall of man.
...(download the rest of the essay above)