Human Nature in “Lord of the Flies” by Golding Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 12th, 2021

Lord of the Flies is a remarkable, allegorical novel written by William Golding and published in 1954. It is possible to say that when creating this piece, the author was largely inspired by the events that took place in the first half of the 20th century and World War II, in particular. As the international community submerged in multiple conflicts, injustices, blind aggression and violence became extremely common and seemed to be promoted by the political agendas in many countries. Thus, there is no surprise that, in his masterpiece, Golding chose to explore the nature of human cruelty. It is considered that evil and aggression are intrinsic parts of human nature and can be either manifested in reality or hidden depending on the circumstances. Fear and chaos are considered to be among the major factors that make people cruel. Considering this, the present paper will analyze the validity of the given statement by drawing on the experiences of characters in Lord of the Flies and evaluating the conditions in which they lived.

The novel’s plot gradually unfolds when a group of boys is cast ashore on an uninhabited island after a plane crash. At first, they manage to take care of themselves without adults’ supervision and maintain constructive relationships inside the group. Nevertheless, soon after, their community falls apart and more and more disorder and fear descend on them. The two characters, Ralph and Jack, take leading positions in the conflict, and Golding endows them with opposing qualities. While Ralph is in favor of civilization and strives to come back to it, values peace, and tries to do good for all boys on the island, Jack is inherently more aggressive, uncompromisable, and manipulative. For example, Ralph’s insistence on compliance with the “conch rule” during the group discussions is an example of his attempts to maintain order in the group, whereas Jack’s keen interest in hunting illustrates his aggressiveness and thirst for blood.

It is worth noticing that Jack initially accepts Ralph’s leadership and tries to comply with the rules. However, over a short period, his behavior becomes more deviant as he fully realizes the freedom of living on an uninhabited island. His opposition to Ralph is symbolic because the latter character represents civilization and morality. Since there is no need to comply with social norms and laws, Jack lets his natural inclinations for aggression and cruelty, which were otherwise suppressed when he lived in society, manifest to their full.

At the same time, in situations when Jack’s influence increases, Ralph tends to lose control and forget his morality more easily. For instance, in the scene where Robert pretends to be a pig as part of a mock-hunt game and others pretend to be hunters aiming to kill him, Ralph became “carried away by a sudden thick excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it” (Golding). Later, as everyone is trying to catch and hit Robert as a pig, “Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh” and his “desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering” (Golding). This episode demonstrates that cruelty is also like Ralph. It becomes expressed when, during the game, he turns less conscious of strict behavioral rules and when everyone around seems to forget about them as well, giving way to their basic, almost animal-like, emotions. Thus, this mock-hunt is a perfect example of a chaotic situation in which moral values have no power and others’ feelings no longer count.

To a significant extent, fear also contributes to the characters’ aggression in the novel. All the boys on the island are afraid of the beast, which, however, is just imaginary. Ralph attempts to persuade them that the beast does not exist and even arranges a meeting “to talk about this fear and decide there’s nothing in it” (Golding). In this way, he tries to maintain order and keep the group cohesive. At the same time, Jack uses others’ fear of the beast to gain power, manipulate others, and create a divide in the community. Consequently, fear overwhelms Ralph as well, and together with Piggy, he finds himself “eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society” that Jack had created (Golding).

Ultimately, the fear and the frenzy that takes hold of the boys’ minds in the moments of chaos leads to one of the most tragic events described in Lord of the Flies – Simon’s death. The killing of the latter character is symbolic since he is the most innocent and pure among all others in the book. Moreover, he is the most intuitive and, thus, first comes to realize that the beast is, in fact, nothing but the darkness that hides inside. It is Simon who understands that the beast is part of every human’s nature and, therefore, the boys are threatened by themselves and each other more than anything else on the island.

It is valid to say that the abovementioned statement is one of the main ideas that Golding wanted to convey in Lord of the Flies. He showed that in some circumstances it becomes harder to keep a civilized face and live by ethical values. Moreover, by instilling and using fear, one can easily manipulate others. Regardless of a seemingly pessimistic message, the novel teaches readers to become more aware of their inclinations and strive to do good despite circumstances and pressure from the majority.


Golding, W. (2014). Lord of the flies. New York, NY: Spark Publishing.

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