Good versus evil is a common concept used often in storytelling, writing, plays, movies, etc. the basic story line is commonly used and developed to mold different ideals, meanings, and lessons into different types of works. William Golding’s novel the Lord of the Flies falls into this category of works with the good versus evil story line. Boiling the novel down to its most basic state it is a story of a group of boys. They all start out in a state of innocence, then as they adjust to their new surroundings after being stranded on a deserted island with no adults; they chose whether or not they turn from their innocence.
When the boys turn from their innocence they go from being good to evil, or as the interpretation of this novel is commonly perceived the boys go from being civilized boys to savages. It is in this sense that civilized and good can be used interchangeably for this interpretation, and the same for evil and savagery. Golding puts an interesting twist to this basic plot right in the beginning of the story. Golding takes the story from just a simple tale of good versus evil to good versus evil with competing ideas of intelligence.
Right in the beginning of the novel we see these ideas of intelligence take form. As the story builds the differences in the types of intelligence grows and becomes more distinct. From there the competition of good versus evil begins. After their plane crashes the boys who were on the plane to escape the warfare in England are scattered on the island. Ralph, the first boy we are introduced to meets another boy named Piggy. “It’s a shell! I seen one like that before. On someone’s back wall. A conch he called it. He used to blow it and then his mum would come. It’s ever so valuable-“(15).
With Piggy’s help Ralph uses the conch they found to call out to the other boys on the island. This is the first hint at the two types of intelligence. Piggy is already exhibiting signs of natural intelligence. This type of intelligence is developed based on the sensory analysis of the surroundings. This intelligence is more advanced and enables Piggy to think in more civilized, advanced ways. He is immediately made fun of for his appearance and as the story progresses is mocked as a know-it-all. No one listens to Piggy, even though the conch and the meeting were his ideas no one realizes this, nor do they care.
Once all the boys are gathered together there is a vote on who should be chief. A boy named Jack is introduced as the leader of the choir boys and he wants to be chief, but when put to a vote Ralph is elected. Ralph does give the choir to Jack and asks what they would like to be. Jack tells Ralph that he and his choir shall be the hunters. Ralph depicts more social intelligence. Ralph knows how to work a crowd, how to lead a group, and how to gain respect. “Everybody must stay round here and wait and not go away.
Three of us- if we take more we’d get all mixed, and lose each other- three of us will go on an expedition and find out” (23-24). This act showed that Ralph was able to get the attention of the boys at any time and that the boys would actually listen to him. His ability to be able to accomplish this as quickly as he did really shows his true social intelligence. “If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire” (38). Ralph does show some natural intelligence as well, but not nearly as much as Piggy exhibits.
Jack also shows a form of social intelligence. He is able to keep command over his choir and they listen to him no matter what. This shows that in the beginning of the story even though the boys are all different, have different types of intelligence, and have mixed feelings about the situation they are still united together as a whole. “All day I’ve been working with Simon. No one else. They’re off bathing, or eating, or playing” (50). The boys begin to slack and begin to realize that there aren’t consequences or punishments for the wrongs they do.
Jack and his group of hunters become obsessed with the idea of killing a pig, and are the only ones exempt from helping build shelters, though the other boys don’t really care enough about their orders to help build or gather food. It’s at this point in the novel where there are serious signs of cracks and issues with the order system the boys have put in place since being on the island. Jack is beginning to slip into a more savage state, and is using his social intelligence to bring other boys down with him. The improvised form of society that the boys have created is already starting to weaken and fall.
“Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood” (69). “Look! We’ve killed a pig-we stole up on them-we got into a circle-“(69). It is at this point in the novel where the group of hunters, the boys who killed the pig, have turned from innocence. The kill they had obsessed over finally happened and they were proud of themselves for killing. The act of killing a living creature, something they never had done before, was the true turning point for them. There was no turning back from it; the hunters even painted their faces, this sense of wearing a mask, pretending to be someone else enabled them to kill.
“‘But they’ll be painted! You know how it is. ’ Eric says. The others nodded. They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought. ‘Well, we won’t be painted,’ said Ralph, ‘because we aren’t savages’” (Golding 172). Ralph is starting to understand that Jack and the group of boys who follow him are starting to turn to a more evil state. Ralph still tries to use his social intelligence and command over his boys so they don’t go over to Jack’s side. Within Jack’s group the obsession with hunting caused the boys to let the fire go out, and subsequently lose a chance at rescue.
The hunters didn’t really seem to care about the fire; they were still overly hyped up about their kill, swearing that they would hunt again and bring back even more meat. As the boys become more and more content with letting go with the rules they get closer and closer to losing their sense of civilization completely. “‘If I blow the conch and they don’t come back; then we’ve had it. We shan’t keep the fire going. We’ll be like animals. We’ll never be rescued. ’“ (Golding 92). As the boys start to fulfill their own wishes of hunting and playing they get sick of listening to Ralph and being controlled by the conch.
They don’t want to do work; they just want to have fun. Jack rebels against Ralph and makes his own “tribe,” where he could be the leader and he would no longer be controlled by the conch. Evil starts to arise rapidly; the majority of the older boys side with Jack and abandon Ralph’s authority. After that Piggy, Sam and Eric are the older boys who remain with Ralph. As the night wears on, some of the “littleuns” sneak off to join Jack. This is truly the end of their makeshift society, it has completely failed.
After the split of the group it appeared as though things could settle down, but Ralph and his boys find that it is nearly impossible to keep the rescue fire going. They need to ask the others for help but Jack’s boys are too afraid to help them. Jack had taken to using torturous and intimidation methods to keep control over his group. He wears a mask, like he did when he killed the first pig; this seems to allow Jack to give in completely to his “evil” savage side. It was while celebrating their savageness and reenacting the kill that they got carried away and got themselves overly worked up.
“The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws” (Golding 153). The wickedness in all of the boys deludes them into mistaking Simon, the only truly “good” pure boy, as the beastie. Simon was considered to be the “pure” boy, the epitome of civilization and innocence. Jack and the other boys had completely given themselves over to their evil sides, giving in to their natural instincts and savagery.
Social Intelligence and natural intelligence are both qualities that help a person to be successful in life. However, overall, society puts greater worth in social intelligence. The abilities to work with others, lead and motivate others, and inspire others make a person successful in life. Just like good and evil, social and natural intelligence go hand in hand. One is not greater than the other, but like people believe good is better, people put more stock in social intelligence. In Lord of the Flies the boys put their trust in Ralph, but as time goes on, and rules begin to be broken, the less control Ralph seems to have.
Social intelligence will only go so far, it can’t be natural instincts. Natural instincts are hidden behind the rules and expectations of society. When they begin to dwindle and those instincts become more prominent, that natural intelligence becomes important, it can be the intelligence or lack thereof that can make or break a situation. Without one, evil or good, natural intelligence or social intelligence, the other is not really known. Without evil how would we know what good is? If everyone was socially intelligent how would we know what natural intelligence is? The answer is we wouldn’t have a way of knowing.
A person cannot know one without knowing of the other. Intelligence and good and evil all work together, as seen in Golding’s novel. Jack possessed the same kind of social intelligence as Ralph, but when he gave in to evil his social intelligence the power it gave him over the other boys allowed Jack to change the atmosphere of the island and turn the boys away from goodness and civilization. Piggy had natural intelligence but because he lacked any real social intelligence he was shunned, mocked, and in the end killed for this. He came off as a know-it-all and a whiner; this annoyed the other boys and eventually led to his demise.
The boys didn’t put any stock in natural intelligence; they put all their stock in social intelligence and natural instinct. Ralph, with Piggy’s help, was able to remain civilized and good. Though he lost his hold on the boys he still had his social intelligence, and even some natural intelligence of his own to rely on. When Ralph was in charge his positive outlook affected the boys as well, they were positive because he was positive. The struggle between good and evil does not just affect the person who’s battling it within themselves, it also affects those around them, and subsequently can change them too. ?
Courtney from Study Moose
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