theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the
defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of society
must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any
political system however apparently logical or respectable. The
whole book is symbolic in nature."
The Human Condition
Golding explores the
dark side of human nature - exposing the innate defects that can
destroy not only an individual, but an entire society. He uses Ralph,
the natural leader, Piggy, the voice of reason, and Jack the passionate
authoritarian to relate the various strengths and weaknesses that
characterize a society and individuals within the whole. Golding
portrays the human condition as naturally flawed and demonstrates
how these flaws can lead to destruction when man's savage instincts
are not properly subdued.
The characters reveal
qualities of both good and evil throughout the novel. Although Golding's
main thrust is to expose man's sinful nature, he does relate man's
noble tendencies as well. Piggy proved to be the "true, wise
friend" (202). Ralph heroically battled against the evil forces
at work on the island that eventually swayed the entire group. He
also combated the evil forces that even at times enticed him
to consider surrender his cause.
Fear plagued the "littluns"
at night. Fear drove the boys away from the harmless, dead parachutist
sprawled out the form of a "beast," and led to animal
sacrifices to appease the mysterious monster. In the end, the greatest
terror that the children faced was inside their own soul: the essential
illness in man that the beast symbolizes.
Depravity vs. Enculturation
In the absence of
normal societal restraints, the boys degenerated into bloodthirsty
savages. Golding makes it apparent that human nature itself is flawed,
yet he acknowledges that the boys were products of the society in
England molded by that culture. Their backgrounds influenced their
initial responses to situations. This is demonstrated in one instance
when Roger is hurling rocks around Henry but hesitates to actually
hit the kid because his "arm was conditioned by a civilization
that knew nothing of him and was in ruins" (62).
of the Human Soul
The weakness of the
human soul is emphasized through Ralph and Piggy in the moments
that they stumble trying to resist the raw temptations to gratify
savage lusts with the rest of the group. When the hunters were reenacting
the pig killing, "Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get
a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh" that happened to
be Robert playing the part of the pig (114, 115). Even though Ralph
recognizes he is susceptible to that evil and his desire is to resist
that evil, the struggle is still real. The soul is frail.
Golding examines two
main forms of government in the book. He uses Ralph to lead a democratic
form of government and Jack to lead the authoritarian form. When
the tyrant finally usurps authority from Ralph, the boys begin to
suffer. All those opposing Jack's desires were wounded. The society
went downhill from that point.
In the beginning,
a group of boys, exhilarated with a sense of adventure, explored
an island for the fun of it. The first attempt to kill a pig was
a failure. Their innocence still hindered them from taking the first
step to spill blood. Yet along the journey, innocence was utterly
destroyed. In the end, "Ralph wept for the end of innocence"
Epstein, E. L. Afterword.
Lord of the Flies. By William Golding. New York:
Lord of the Flies. New York: Putnam Publishing, 1954.