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The Inborn Evil of Mankind Essay

In the novel Lord of the Flies, Golding’s pessimistic view that evil is an inborn trait of mankind is valid. Firstly, what seems like a little vacation for the boys is quickly erased by the brutal savage-like behavior that many of the boys on the island possess. Secondly, the death of Simon or goodness on the island shows that evil has completely taken over the boys’ minds. Lastly, the fact that the beast lies within mankind symbolizes the evil that is present in humanity. Therefore, the boys on the island express the innate evil in mankind that can possibly be released when there is no structure and very little means of survival.

The thought of evil being an inborn trait of mankind is shown through the savage like-behavior that many of the boys on the island possess. As the boys try to organize and prepare a plan to get rescued, they begin to separate. As a result of this conflict, a band of savage tribal hunters is formed. Eventually, the boys almost entirely rid themselves of the civilized behavior that has been instilled in them throughout their years. “…hair much too long, tangled here and there, knotted round a dead leaf or twig; clothes, worn away, stiff like his own with sweat, put on, not for decorum or comfort but out of custom; the skin of the body scurfy with brine” (Golding 101). This quotes uses imagery to show the degree of the boys’ transformations on the island. As their days on the island progress, the boys’ outward appearances become less civilized. Therefore showing that their outward appearance is a reflection of their inward, savage-like state.

This quote also shows that the boys’ surroundings have further contributed to bringing forward their innate barbaric behavior. At the beginning of the novel when things on the island were orderly, the boys dressed in their school uniform which physically symbolized order, rules, and democracy. However as time progressed on the island, the boys’ clothing slowly decomposed into rags, showing that order and rules were slowly diminishing. Therefore revealing the true savage behavior that many of the boys possess. “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in” (Golding 75). This is the chant that the hunters repeat after successfully killing a pig. One of the greatest acts of savagery on the island is shown when the boys kill a mother a pig who is nursing her piglets. This act shows that the boys will kill anyone or anything just to have food for their feasts.

This ultimately shows that most of the boys have turned into savages who only care about their next hunt and next kill. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains Thomas Hobbes’ theory of moral and political philosophy. Hobbes compromises an obvious objection, admitting that some of us are much stronger and wiser than others. “Nonetheless, it’s almost invariably true that every human being is capable of killing any other. Even the strongest must sleep; even the weakest might persuade others to help him kill another” (Leviathan, xiii.1-2). Hobbes states that every human is capable of killing another, which ultimately shows the innate evil that is present within mankind. The simple fact that a human being is able to kill another part of its own species shows the savage-like behavior which humans are capable of displaying.

The death of Simon demonstrates that evil is an innate trait of mankind and that there truly is no hope for human beings. Simon’s death further represents the completion of the change from civilization to savagery on the island. The death of Simon also shows that the beast has already done enough damage to the boys that they no longer need Simon’s presence on the island. “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). Simon represents goodness or the “Christ-like figure” on the island. While Simon is killed, evil has taken over the boys and they ultimately eliminate goodness from the island. The boys brutally murder Simon simply because they think he is the beast. As the boys murder Simon, Golding uses language that creates a sense of the crowded mentality that the boys are feeling as the storm around them grows.

Language such as ‘unbearable noise,’ and ‘explosion,’ give the feeling that the storm is very loud and that the unbearable sound adds to the sense of madness that drives the boys to the murder. This language makes Simon’s death seem all the more credible as the boys’ minds seem to be crowded with the affects of the storm. Finally, Simon was the only one with the information of where the true evil lay and now that he is dead, his simple message will never be delivered. In a journal report discussing the novel, David Spitz comments on Golding’s Pessimistic view of mankind. In Golding’s point of view, evilness was the only characteristic men really had and it was spread among them. In contrast to Golding’s thoughts, Simon is one of the few characters in the novel that possesses an innate goodness.

In addition, he is one of the most important and positive characters shown in the novel since his high sense of morality represents the Christ-like figure, the person who died to save humans. There are many similarities between Jesus and Simon. Just as Jesus faced the devil in the desert, Simon faces the sow’s head in the forest. At this time, both Jesus and Simon are given a forecast of their own death. Like Jesus, Simon is killed, even though, again like Jesus, he had foreknowledge of his death. Lastly, the wave that drifts Simon’s body from the island underlines Simon’s difference from others (Spitz 25). Thus showing that Simon’s death completed the boys’ change from civilization to savagery since it shows the evil that humans are capable of.

Lastly, the fact that the beast lives within the boys represents the evil that is present in humanity. The boys’ belief in the beast becomes stronger as they become more uncivilized because their inner evil takes a strong hold of them, clouding their perception of the truth. “‘There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?’” (Golding 143). Golding uses the boys’ fear of a mythical beast to demonstrate their belief that evil begins from external forces rather than from inside themselves. This fearful beast originally takes form in their imaginations as a snake-type animal that disguises itself as jungle vines. When the boys spot the dead parachute man who lands on the mountain, they think they have proof of the beast’s existence. Through the beast, Golding wanted to show the dark side that human nature possesses.

Once again, Spitz comments on the novel by describing the symbolism of the Lord of the Flies. “Lord of the Flies…he is the personification of evil. The boys are the flies and the beast, the evil, the senseless passion that is in man; in each and every man” (Spitz 28). The boys think that the source of their worst impulses is the beast, some sort of animal or supernatural creature that lives on the island. However, the boys actually take on the qualities of the beast when they act on their savage-like impulses, therefore showing that there is no external beast. Simon is then startled by his discovery and tries to inform the rest of the boys. However, the evil and savagery within the boys is brought to the surface as they mistake Simon for the beast and kill him. On a biblical analysis site, members of the Christadelphians church community comment on the true source of sin.

Even though the serpent tempted Eve and was punished for his part in the disobedience, Adam and Eve were both cursed and banished from the Garden of Eden because of their sin. The Bible makes it clear that, though the serpent put the idea of eating the forbidden fruit into Eve’s head, it was her own selfish wishes and desires that caused her to commit such a great sin. This shows that that the beast does live in humans and that the source of all wickedness is actually man’s own heart or desires (“The Source of Evil”). Therefore, the idea that the beast dwells within mankind and is not a mythical being shows the evil that is present within humans.

Golding’s pessimistic view that evil is an inborn trait of mankind is valid throughout the novel Lord of the Flies. After being on the island for a while, the boys begin to rid themselves of the civilized behavior that has been instilled in them and eventually bring forward their innate savage-like behavior. Secondly, the boys’ inborn evil overwhelms them as they remove goodness, Simon, from the island. Lastly, the idea that the beast lies within humans and is not a mythical creature, symbolizes the evil that is present in humanity. Therefore, Lord of the Flies portrays the dark, deteriorating life that results from mankind’s innate capacity of evil, which is brought forward when rules and authority are no longer present.

Works Cited

Anonymous. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Locke, John . Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

Christadelphians, The. “The Source of Evil.” The Source of Evil. Biblical Concepts, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

Golding, William. “Lord of the Flies.” New York: The Putnam Publishing Group, 1954.

Spitz, David. “Power and Authority: An Interpretation of Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” Rev. of Lord of the Flies. The Antioch Review 1970: 21-33. JSTOR. JSTOR, 25 May 2010. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.


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