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"Underneath the veneer of civilisation lies a primitive beast." How far is this true of your reading of the novel?

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Introduction

"Underneath the veneer of civilisation lies a primitive beast." How far is this true of your reading of the novel? The novel "Lord of the Flies" describes a stranded group of young boys that are forced to confront their inner fears. Though at first they bring with them rules of equal rights and democracy, these rules are eventually disregarded as the majority of the boys lose their innocence and start killing. Without the bonds of civilisation, most of the boys turn into savages driven by primal instinct. When first on the island, the boys endeavour to enforce certain rules and aspects of civilisation which they have brought with them from the outside world. Immediately, a leader is elected - Ralph, a charismatic, attractive character that is not unlike the leaders of the world. The conch is used to give everyone the right of free speech, while the meetings highlight the democratic process which the boys hold in high regard. The fire and shelters for rescue also show their civilised behaviour and planning. ...read more.

Middle

In addition, it changes the initially happy atmosphere on the island into one of general fear. As Ralph says himself: "Things are breaking up. I don't know why. We began well; we were happy. And then... - then people started getting frightened." None of the boys, with the exception of Simon, understand this fear. However, Simon is unable to explain clearly to the group that the fear of the 'beast' is irrational, and is really the result of their fear of the unknown. The best he can manage is: "What I mean is... Maybe it's only us." Simon says that the 'beast' is really within them by saying that 'it's only us', but the group does not heed him because he is not accepted within them. At this point, William Golding is using the fear of the beast to express the intrinsic cruelty and fear of man. The fundamental 'essential illness' of man has caused the boys to fear the beast, instead of realising what it really is. ...read more.

Conclusion

Ultimately, it is the innate capacity of evil within most of the boys that lead them to becoming savages. Though the fear of the beast, lack of good leadership, rules and consequences all play a part in the boys' transition to savages, it is really the intrinsic cruelty in most of their natures that brings the savagery out in them. If Jack and his hunters never had the primal urge to hunt and kill, then it is probably that they would have survived without harming anyone intentionally - even with the fear of the beast and the lack of a society with rules, consequences, and good leaders. However, Golding says that since there is an innate capacity of evil within most people, we need all the rules, restrictions and laws of society to prevent us from becoming savages. On the island - a microcosm of the world - basic human instinct and the intrinsic capacity of evil overcomes democracy, common sense and responsibility without society's rules and consequences. Therefore, William Golding's message is clear: human beings need the bonds of civilisation, for without it we are nothing but savages, abandoning all responsibility and acting upon primal instinct. ...read more.

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