Lord Of the Flies: Progression of Evil

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Lukas Schmelter 10P

Lord of the Flies, Behavioral changes in William Golding’s characters


As the novel progresses, what evidence is that the influence of civilization is or is not becoming less within some of the boys?

Lukas Schmelter

The theory that man is born with the inherent capability for both good and evil is a controversial notion that has sparked dispute and debate amongst even the greatest philosophers and thinkers of our time. William Golding however, offers a very own, original, yet exceedingly pessimistic and cynical interpretation of this topic through his brilliant allegorical novel, the Lord of the Flies. In this Nobel Prize winning novel Golding gives a breathtakingly accurate account of what befalls humanity if all restrictions and limitations of civil society are removed. The tragic degradation from civility, and all its integrated behavior and manners, to fierce, animalistic savagery, is brutally demonstrated by Golding’s well developed and characterized figures. He achieves this in a highly artistic manner, most vividly with his main characters Jack and Piggy who individually represent different aspects of human nature, and likewise display the deterioration and, on the other hand, the conservation of civilization amongst the boys stranded on the desert island.

In the beginning of the novel, Jack is introduced as a poised, strong willed young boy who asserts himself as a natural leader, and seemingly loves to exert his superiority upon others, who according to his ego are of less value and importance. This extreme confidence derives from him being accustomed to leadership roles, and the resulting power that comes with it. “I ought to be chief…I am chapter chorister and head boy” (Golding/18) is Jacks response to when the boys reach a consensus on the fact that they need a leader to organize and establish order. This further demonstrates Jacks immense egotistical nature and arrogance, which becomes even clearer with Jacks reaction to the boys electing the more subtly confident, charismatic Ralph as their leader. “Jacks face disappeared under a blush of mortification” (Golding/19), Jack is furious to see someone else take charge, of what he believes is his designated position. Regardless of his initial reaction, Jack does cooperate under Ralph’s orders and assignments, however he displays aggression toward some group members especially Piggy, who is seen as a kind of outsider. “Shut up fatty!” (Golding/17). Further indicating an inclination toward aggression is his eagerness to be a hunter, and willingness to kill for meat. Despite this eagerness, when Jack, along with Ralph and Simon, do stumble across a piglet caught in vines, on their first expedition of the island, he can’t seem to bring himself to kill the animal, and endure the resulting guilt. Guilt that is the product of civilization and mannered upbringing, which condemns acts of violence toward any sort of living thing, and thus restricts him from committing a deed, that essentially breaks the rules of civil society. Never the less Jack denies any claims of being scared or frightened, and underscores his denial by again demonstrating aggression. On pg. 31 of the novel, Jack fiercely slams his knife into a near lying tree trunk and glares around challengingly, in response to Ralph mentioning his failure of slaying the pig to the other boys at the assembly.

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This failed attempt laid a burden of shame upon his shoulders, and thus Jack became more determined than ever to kill and shed blood, in an effort to redeem himself, and re-establish what he sees as ruined reputation and lost courage. As a result he comes close to killing a pig again in chapter 3, and at this point one can truly sense that Jacks behavior has changed, and that the constraints of society have been lifted and become irrelevant to his state of mind. “Jack was bent double. He was down like a sprinter, his nose only inches from ...

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