Compare and contrast the presentation of the extremes of good and evil in Goldings Lord of the Flies and Shakespeares Macbeth. How do these extremes reflect the times in which the texts were written?

Authors Avatar by erinruth99gmailcom (student)

Compare and contrast the presentation of the extremes of good and evil in Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. How do these extremes reflect the times in which the texts were written? (30 marks)

Both Lord of the Flies and Macbeth are texts that explore the inner darkness of the human race and describe what depravities mankind is capable of. Good is briefly presented in each text but is not the focus of the plot. These are texts that very much reflect the times that they were written in: Jacobean England and Cold War England, two periods of history that were shrouded with threat and fear of evil. In examining the presentations of good and evil, a good place to start is how the sources of evil are portrayed in both texts.

Primarily the main difference between the two texts is that in Macbeth evil is an external force personified as Satan as well as something internal. Conversely, in Lord of the Flies the Beast is only a figment of their imagination and all evil stems from man’s hereditary nature. This is presented to us in chapter 8 of Lord of the Flies when Simon hallucinates about a conversation with beast, and in Act 2 Scenes 2 and 3 of Macbeth when the concept of demonic influence is discussed in the wake of Duncan’s murder.  

In Act 2 Scene 2 Macbeth bemoans that “I had most need of a blessing, and ‘Amen’ / Stuck in my throat.” The inability to say a prayer was seen to be a symbol of being bewitched and a total severance of any connection with God. This is because only a few scenes before Macbeth forfeited his soul in exchange for earthy desires. Macbeth acknowledges that he has committed a grievous sin but does not even have the ability to ask for forgiveness. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, views evil as something less absolute and tells Macbeth that, “’Tis the eye of childhood / That fears a painted devil.” Lady Macbeth sees fear of the devil as something childish and doubts his very existence, peradventure to ease her conscience. The use of the word ‘painted’ is a play on words, as it can also mean something that is bloodstained.

Furthermore, Lady Macbeth’s statement about the devil existing only in, “the eye of childhood,” fits in extremely well with Lord of the Flies, where the beast literally only exists in the minds of the children. When Simon is hallucinating, most likely due to the effects of dehydration as his, “swollen tongue,” suggests, the Lord of the Flies asks him, “Aren’t you afraid of me?” Simon responds by shaking his head, indicating that he acknowledges what the other boys on the island have yet to grasp – as soon as you start fearing that the beast is real, the fear eats away at you until you turn into a beast yourself. Contrarily to Macbeth, the beast does not claim to be its own being. Instead it taunts Simon by stating, “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close!” The succession of rhetorical questions only emphasise what Simon had already figured out. The beast is portrayed as a source of malevolence that exists inside the boys. The beast taunts Simon with its repetition of, “close,” emphasising how impossible it will be for Simon to resist him, until Simon eventually loses consciousness.  

Additionally, the situation alludes to when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, but Jesus resisted. In fact, the name Lord of the Flies is a literal translation of Beelzebub, a powerful demon thought to be Satan’s second in command. However, this is not an exchange between two supernatural powers at the opposite sides of the morality scale. It is simply a young boy wrestling with his conscience and natural desires.

Join now!

Alternatively, another key speech from Macbeth that accredits the supernatural as the source of evil is the Porter’s drunken ramblings in Act 2 Scene 3.  He starts by saying, “If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.” He imagines that he is the porter of Hell, and he implies that there is so much evil and atrocities in the world that Hell’s gates are never out of action. He continues by stating, “Who's there, i' the name of Beelzebub?” and “Who's there, in the other devil's name?”, referring to Satan and his second-in-command Beelzebub. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay