The main thematic statement in William Golding s Lord Of the Flies is that pure savagery of human nature hides deep inside of everyone. In this paper I will discuss what drove the boys from civil humans, to cold blooded killers. I will explain my opinion, add the opinion of other authors, and explain whether I agree with the other authors or not.
In this story Golding brought out human reactions to isolation, fear, torture, and murder. The stranded boys made a smoke signal that failed and then ended up killing their brother, or their fellow man. When one does not have much of a chance of rescue, and one has put a lot of effort into building a fire which is a chance of getting off the island, and when one puts the responsibility in someone elses hands, and the other hands slack off, take off on a hunt, it is only human nature for one to want to retaliate.
Lawrence R. Ries, in his literary criticisms, discusses the nature of man, and how Golding uses that in most of his novels. Current affairs are merely a gauge by which to measure the basic human condition. (Bibliography #4) Golding wrote about the relationship between man and his fellow man. In Lord Of The Flies it is a world with no adult control. The same rules are not applied on the island as at home. The boys eventually move slowly at first, but then quickly move into a world of pure primitive and savage violence. The human condition is one of aggression and anger. (Bibliography #4) The rational minority in the society of the island is the character, Piggy, who tries to think and plot things out. Ordinary citizens are represented by Sam and Eric. They are eventually sucked under the influence of the dominating tribe, led by Jack and the rest of the hunters. The boys discovered a link between modern man and primitive man in which they are both not aware of their own nature.
I agree with Mr. Ries. I feel that anyone would do the same thing as the boys in the book. It is human nature to want to be right and never be wrong, and to always think you know what is going on. I also believe that Mr. Ries portrays the roles of each character accurately. Sam and Eric are the common citizens who are captured by Jack and the hunters. Then were tied up and tortured by the hunters, and finally brought over to the side of the hunters.
The Critic A.C. Capey, believes that William Golding despises the children in the book, and that he produces a limited vision of human nature. Golding creates the world viewed by the adult and not by the child. When Piggy dies it is a symbol of the fall of their society. But the power of Mr. Golding s art depends also upon the show- the shown significance of the grunt (which means the author’s clever sneer), the smashed conch and the spilt brains. (Bibliography #5) Piggy’s death meant that the island code once again powered over intelligence, rationality, and reason.
I disagree with Mr. Capey. I felt that the author had nothing against the boys, and more against the English boarding school system. Bad things happened to them, but it was not personal. Mr. Golding wanted to show how human nature mirrored the actions of the children and so he gave them a bad situation. I do not believe he had anything against these young boys or young boys in general.
James Gindin believed that the book was one of the best examples of a contemporary book. He found parallels to the Christian church. “Lord Of The Flies, by its very form, insists of the truth of the orthodox christian version of essential human depravity: the concept and meaning of the novel rely on the validity of its Christian parallels.” (Bibliography #3).
I have to agree with Mr. Gindin here. At the end of the book the children are rescued, which is similar to redemption, where no matter what you do you can always repent and be allowed into heaven (or in this case out of hell). Another thing I found that parallels the Christian church is that Piggy (the rational person) is always wrong no matter who he is talking to. As how the church is always right even when proven wrong.
William H. Pitchard relates the book to the biblical story of Cain- the man who ended up killing his own brother. In Lord Of the Flies it is not a moral achievement but a moral regression. There is no end to it. The rescue party comes from a country where regression has happened on a very large scale, atomic war. Cain is not just our ancestor, he is a contemporary man and his murderous impulses are armed with destructive power that will not end. This novel has been considered a fable, a story reinforced by a moral value.
I agree with Mr. Pitchard, that this story is a fable. The moral value is that there is a reason for having laws and order in society. The reason is, If there were no laws then people would run loose like on the island in the book, complete and utter chaos.
Kenneth Rexroth believed that Lord Of The Flies was the opposite of the novel, The Swiss Family Robinson. Everyone was dumped on an island in the middle of no where. They were put on a poor island with little to eat, poor vegetation and very little meat. Rexroth found that the boys were annoying like their school master, and it just rubbed off. At the end of the story Rexroth feels that Golding needs to find a better job because he was not convinced of the “obliterative effect of original sin.”
Mr. Rexroth has the right idea. Unlike The Swiss Family Robinson, the boys have very little food and do not have a large wide tree or the materials to build a three story tree house. They did not have many wild animals on the island except for a few wild pigs. There were not any monkeys to befriend or materials to make bombs and traps.
In the end, humans are not as sophisticated and modern as we believe, but in fact under our sophistication shell we are primitive and savage. It is only when there is an opportunity for the shell to come off that we see the dark side. We as humans despise anyone who disagrees with us and we lose respect for them. If anyone was ever stranded on a small secluded island with a group of people of the same sex a similar situation could occur and there could be chaos like in the book.
A Biography on William Golding
William Gerald Golding was born in Cornwall, England in 1911. He came from a very progressive family and that is where he received some of his talent. He studied physics and English literature at Marlboro and Oxford Universities of England. In the first years of his life, he faced the atrocities of war. He took part in the Second World War by joining the British Navy in 1940.
The war, as a physical result, changed a lot Golding’s view of life. Golding couldn’t believe in man’s innocence any longer. He found that even the children are not innocent. No one is innocent until the society and the way of his life make him to pretend that he’s innocent. But sometimes, when a man is facing a difficult
After the war, from 1945 to 1962, he worked as a teacher in Salisbury. During these years he started to write. He published the books Lord of the Flies (1954), The Inheritors (1955), Pincher Martin (1956) and Free Fall (1959).
The ideas of Golding’s view of human nature can be found in almost any of Golding’s books, particularly, in his first and most famous book, Lord of the flies. This book, was published in 1954 and didn’t become a success at once. Today, it is considered one of the best books of English literature. It also became a successful film.
Golding taught in Greece in the 1960’s, and was influenced greatly by the country. His last book, The Double Tongue, (1993), was a novel about Ancient Greece and most specifically about Pythia’s life. Pythia was the name which used to be given to the Greek Priestess of Delphi, the oracle. Golding tried to describe a woman’s life. He tried this before, when he was writing his novel Darkness Visible in 1979 about a priestess who lived in the last years of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, this book will never been finished. William Golding, died in Wiltshire, England in 1993. His last book was finally published in 1995, but it was just a rough draft.
2. Contemporary Literary Criticism #3 1975 Gale Research Company. David H. Pitchard Pg. 197
3. Contemporary Literary Criticism #3 1975 Gale Research Company. James Gindin Pg. 198
4. Contemporary Literary Criticism #10 1979 Gale Research Company. Lawrence R. Ries Pg. 239
5. Contemporary Literary Criticism #17 1981 Gale Research Company. A.C. Capey Pg. 177