Human Nature in Lord of the Flies by William Golding


Savagery is an innate trait found in every human. The breakdown of society’s boundaries, the triumph of Jack's ascent to power, and the very concept of evil itself, factor toward the rationale that human nature is inherently evil. Golding provides an acute insight into human behavior in his novel when a group of British boys is placed on an island where society doesn't exist. Throughout the book, these boys demonstrate questionable actions depicting their human nature as a nature beyond civilized human beings.

When human nature is free from the restriction of society and rules, they revert to their original ways of savagery, losing all morals deemed acceptable. This form of character development is distinctly evident in the boy Roger. Roger is introduced as a “furtive boy...who kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy” (27). As time goes on, away from civilization, Roger's true personality starts to surface when he attempts to throw rocks at the littluns. His “arm [however] [is] conditioned by a civilization that [knows] nothing of him (86)”. Still bound to the rules of society, and the “taboo of [his] old life” (86), he refrains from giving in to his ultimate desires and throws rocks around the kids instead. Though as Jack begins to gain power through terror and fear, Roger’s moral code cracks. The more the influence of society wanes, the more menacing and diabolical he progresses. When Roger joins Jack's tribe, he abandons rules altogether. A clear indicator of Roger's true intentions is when he, “with a sense of delirious abandonment, [leans] all his weight on the lever” (260), and kills Piggy. He has become this sadist who lost his humanity and is quite literally the epitome of evil. This personality switch found in Roger is found in every boy on the island through different intensities. Even the leader Ralph, and the intelligent boy Piggy got caught up in savage actions. No matter who you are, or what your personality is, all humans are susceptible to savagery in a setting where civilization is no more.

Jack's claim to power over Ralph expresses the boys in Lord of The Flies' true selfish desires and nature. Jack and Ralph are two leaders who control in two distinct ways. Both of which have varying skills to offer towards the others. Ralph is a fair and respectful leader who runs a democratic system. His main goal is to run a civilized society that will work together to get rescued. Ralph establishes rules on a conch to give freedom of speech to the boys. The boys just have to “[h]old it when [they're] speaking” (Golding, 45), and can have a say in topics they may feel strongly about. This type of rule creates a healthy bond between citizens and its ruler. It shows that Ralph genuinely cares what the other boys want. Jack is a leader who runs on manipulation and fear. “Bollocks to the rules!”(Golding, 129) Jack says, “[w]e’re strong—we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat—!” (9). Jack is simple-minded. He believes that one can live off hunting and be ok. Now let's say someone's offered two leaders who promise different things. Leader one promises to rescue and a society filled with law and order. Leader two promises meat, a fun time, and protection from an imaginary beast. Leader one can't promise them meat and leader two can't promise them a future. Which option would they choose if they were stranded on the island? From the boy’s perspective, meat and protection from the beast sounded like the most appealing lifestyle. Those boys will submit to Jack's abusive idea of order and authority if it means that they get to live better off. The boys choosing desire over common sense in a situation that could very well mean life and death shows that the farther an individual gets away from society, the farther they get away from rationalization. Human nature is naturally selfish, and ultimately they will choose bad over good if it means they get what they want. This mindset implanted in the boys of LOTF contributes towards the reasoning that human nature is intrinsically evil. (using an outside source to connect thesis)

LOTF author Golding and philosopher Thomas Hobbes share a common belief on the origin of evil throughout humans. Through the Leviathan, a book Thomas Hobbes wrote, he expresses his own beliefs on human nature that William Golding’s Lord of the Flies encompasses perfectly. “No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”(Hobbes, 186). This distasteful condition of mankind is because individuals are in a "war of all against all" (L 186). He believes humans to be conceited and so to seek domination of overs for respect. Hobbes's ideology is that when humans are left to their own devices without a central authority to keep them in check, they will quickly descend into a war between each other. The ending scene in LOTF depicts this crazy hunt where previous leader Ralph is being hunted by Jack’s tribe on the island. A war has broken out between them. The boys end up on shore where they run into the first adult they've seen since they landed on the island. The mood of the boys completely switches and the “ululation [falters] and [dies] away”(Golding, 288). The once savage and untamed boys are now “standing on the beach making no noise at all” (Golding, 288). The presence of a single adult can alter authority instantly and make each boy reflect on their previous actions. This adult has the power to change the state of the boys and stop their descent into savagery. According to Hobbes, he believes that a strong power could presumably balance this issue of war without civilization, and fabricate a system where people act differently. Hobbes also contends that in the state of nature “if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies”(Hobbes, 187). If two people, in this case, Jack and Ralph, desire a unique position of leader, no friendship can ever result. Consequently, In their efforts to achieve this position, they will attempt to destroy and kill another until they get what they want. As Jack grasps the position of leader, the boys following under him are quick to adapt to his standards and method of living. In this environment, “nothing can be Unjust’ since the ‘notions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice have there no place” (Hobbes, 188). In Lord of the Flies, every boy blurs the lines between what they believe what was right and wrong as society's teachings were forgotten. When murders were committed the boys do not bat an eye. The outright cruelness of their acts is overridden by this feral desire for more. More power, and more strength, equals no more beast. Connecting Golding's message of human nature to an outside source further confirms the concept of a human's internal wickedness. 

Lord of The Flies presents an interesting concept of a human's nature when placed in an abnormal setting. It depicts how humans, when not constrained by moral obligations, will descend into chaos.

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