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‘The darkness of man’s heart’ Essay

The question I have chosen to do this essay on is to discuss the way the novel is described; it is described as exploring ‘the darkness of man’s heart’. The novel is set in the not too distant future where war is waging between nuclear powers in the world. Because of these circumstances a large number children have been evacuated from their homes but before they reach their destination their plane is shot down and the survivors land on a tropical almost paradise like island, unspoiled by man. This island is a microcosm representing the world. On the island the survivors all meet together and create a chief Ralph. Things soon go wrong due to members of the original group creating trouble and they decide to form their own tribe with a new chief Jack. I am going to look at how the events on the island have created an idea that the novel is exploring ‘the darkness of mans heart’.

There are many areas within the novel which give evidence to support the view that the main theme is about “the darkness of mans heart.”. The first part of the novel is a very important part as it sets the scene of how these boys have such beautiful surrounding’s and how they are keen to think of ways to be rescued and just the pleasures of day to day life they enjoy. During the opening stages you can sense that the boys still have a strong memory of law and order and how to conduct themselves. One thing that shows this is when Roger an almost non existent character with little dialogue throws stones at a small child, not to hit him as he is circled with ‘the taboo of old life’

Another time when we are shown the way the children have been restricted in their basic instincts due to the fact that they have been subjected to society’s rigid rules, is when they go on their first hunting expedition. Jack could not bring himself to kill the pig because of “the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood”. All these games are all right to begin with but “the darkness of mans heart” ie the evil which many are capable of but lies hidden, needs to be controlled or else it will flourish. This shows us how we need to have rules in society or else anarchy and savagery will reign.

The way in which the children remember the rules and power of the old life is through the conch. The conch is just a shell to you and me but through it they see power and authority as whoever holds the conch has the right to speak. The conch represents in our own world today the mace in the House of Commons; this mace has the greatest of importance, as without its presence the House of Commons cannot begin. The conch I think holds them all together for a while, but it’s when they try to bend its rules by suggesting to remove its power in different area’s of the island and eventually destroy it along with Piggy. Then I believe the darkness of mans heart becomes clearer as the conch symbolises law/order and authority.

Another important part of the novel is when the beast takes on a physical persona. The beast we learn at the start is non-existent and only an empty shell that the younger children and some of the elders talk about. But it is when Ralph appeals to the adult world for help, “if only they could send us something grown-up …a sign or something,” then from the sky a dead airmen falls from the sky. The sign the adult world gives them is one of death and destruction and we soon realise that it is not a “beastie” they are afraid of it is themselves, its mans own nature. This is confirmed by Simon later “what I mean is …maybe its only us,” he is the only one to make the connection and he pays dearly for trying to communicate it to others.

The deterioration in the boy’s sense of morality’s through the novel are ever so clear. And when we reach towards the end of the novel we see how that has happened, through the lack of authority and law. The boys have now become savages, they have gone through a massive transformation because of their surroundings and their ability to destroy and kill, and this is shown through the “scar” made in the island. It does this by showing mans destructive powers he is capable of. There are many things each of the characters symbolise at the end of the novel, Roger is evil a Satan like creature who has no conscious, Jack is savagery and anarchy, the beast is the inner evil in everyone (darkness of mans heart).

The whole novel is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island. The officer having interrupted a manhunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser, which will presently hunting its enemy in the same way. And I believe the cruiser is very important as it makes you think who will rescue the adult and his cruiser.

This novel message about the darkness of mans heart means that society holds everyone together, and without these conditions, our ideals, values and basic choices of rights or wrong are lost. Without society’s rigid rules anarchy and savagery can and will come to light. This novel is valuable not that it tells us of the darkness of mans heart, its valuable as it shows it by allowing us to enter into the island.


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