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Both Golding and Dickens have concerns for the moral welfare of their societies

Categories: Moral

What concerns do they have? How are they relevant to the time in which they are writing and how are these ideas communicated through character and setting?

Both Golding and Dickens convey their concerns for the moral welfare of their societies through Lord of the Flies and Great Expectation. In this essay I will show their concerns for the moral welfare of their societies and how they communicate their concerns through character and setting.

William Golding’s one of many concerns about the moral welfare of his society is that he believes that man would destroy the earth with atomic warfare and nuclear weapons.

Golding uses the fact that the boys were brought to the island through atomic warfare in the air to display his feeling about Atomic Warfare in his society. It is the Atomic Warfare that brought the boys to the island, and it is that, therefore what led the boys to corruptness and all of the killing. This further brings to light Golding’s concern that Man would destroy the earth and each other with Atomic Warfare and Nuclear Weapons.

I believe that Golding decided to end the novel with the officer coming to the rescue rather than all of the boys leading a horrible death because he wanted to show that the experience on the island can be compared to the real world. In an interview with Golding he says: –

“The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where the adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island.

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The officer, having interrupted a manhunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser, which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?”

Here Golding is trying to say that there is no difference between the island world and the adult one. Even though the boys seem to be rescued, who will rescue the adult? The adult may have stopped the manhunt on the island but now he will be going on a manhunt himself. The children reveal the same nature as adults in the real world. Read how certain events change our impressions of life

Golding is concerned about Atomic Warfare, as he had seen so much suffering as a cause of it, during World War 2. In Goldings collected essays. The hot gates, there is a piece about Lord of the Flies called “Fable”, in which he says,

“Before the second world War, I believed in the perfectibility of social man; that a correct structure of society would produce goodwill; and that therefore you could remove all social ills by reorganisation of society. It is possible that today I believe something of the same again; but after the was I did not because I was unable to. I had discovered what one man could do to another.”

Golding’s experience of this can be seen brought out in “Lord of the Flies.” With this in mind Jack can be seen as a representation of Hitler, and the choir as an image for the Nazis. However he could have easily had in mind the type of people who have become powerful force in society in the past. People like these usually begin dedicated and form good order under good leadership, but often impose their views on others by means of force and become violent and murderous.

This is probably what Golding thought of society at the time as this is brought out in Jack and his tribe vividly. Golding is making a distinct warning against over-powerful dictatorships. Jack does not wan any other force opposing him in any way. Golding is trying to say that democracy cannot simply exist on rules and laws and a few symbols like the conch, ” We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us.” This shows that the conch was just a convenient noisemaker. Golding is trying to say that society relies on goodwill, hope and understanding and hope of the people.

Another concern that Golding has about the moral welfare of his society is that the weak are oppressed or persecuted and you shouldn’t judge people by physical appearance. The first death is the littlun with the birthmark… “the crowd was as silent as death”. Later, Simon and Piggy die, and they too have physical “defects”. None of the other boys have physical defects like these. Golding probably shows this to show that in our society the weaker people are sometimes made outsiders because they are not perfect in every shape or form.

The outsider is feared, mocked or persecuted. This is represented by Simon and Piggy. The death of the littlun with the birthmark is the first of several events that ultimately leads to the destruction of society in the novel. Simon is described as a “skinny, vivid little boy”, who is prone to fainting. Simon’s bright eyes suggest to Ralph that he is “delightfully gay” and “wicked”. Simon, although uncomfortable, feels “a perilous necessity to speak”.

He tries to explain his feeling that the beast may be inside them “…maybe it’s only us.” Golding then goes straight on to say that “Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness. I think here, Golding is trying to say that it is useless telling mankind of their mistakes because their nature will cause them to ignore them and anything related to them. Piggy is also mocked and persecuted because of his physical defects. He is immediately branded as fat, clumsy, good matured and not good at games. He has physical discomforts such as myopia, asthma, “Can’t catch my breath. I was the only boy in our school what had asthma… and I’ve been wearing specs since I was three.” It is right that he should have a lower-class tone and the inaccurate way he speaks, should be associated with the values of Auntie and the sweet shop.

There is also a class divide between the boys, at least in the first part of the book. Piggy is from a lower class the rest of the boys and is mocked and left out because of it. I think here Golding is trying to portray the class system. The higher class takes priority even though the lower class may be right. For example when Ralph is speaking to Piggy he looks down on him “I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. He’s a commander in the Navy. When he gets leave he’ll come and rescue us. Piggy’s reason cannot control the boys, his belief that science can explain everything makes him unable to comprehend the reality of the Beast “Life…is scientific…. I know there isn’t no beast…but I know there isn’t no fear, either…. Unless we get frightened of people.” Piggy denies that there could be a beast: “Course there isn’t a beast in the forest. How could here be? What would a beast eat?”


“We eat pig”


And it is Piggy whom they ultimately destroy. The boys do indeed eat the pig and Piggy is destroyed by the darkness within every one of the boys. This is also in some way ironic.

Piggy may be the brains in the novel but the beast in Roger, by smashing his skull, makes those brains useless. Piggy honestly believes that if only they would behave like grown-ups all would be well; if a ship carrying grown-ups would spot them they would be saved. This idea seems to make out that grown ups would be the saviour and would bring peace to the island. To take such a view is, however, to fall into what Golding suggests is one of the most dangerous of errors: to attempt to deny that the Beast is in us and to limit its existence to some other time, place, or group of people.

Piggy’s faith in grown-ups is shown to be sadly misplaced. Piggy’s death illustrates the complete collapse of humane society on the island. He is a scholar, secretly responsible for everyone’s survival on the island and he counsels Ralph in all matters. When the boys kill Piggy, they basically destroy their only hope for extended survival on the island. His death further typifies the destruction of social order and the increasing influence of evil. Roger kills Piggy purely for entertainment, once again showing the wickedness in humanity.

Golding also has the fear that the good (minority) will be crushed by the bad. This is portrayed by the fact that the minority and the good people on the island are Piggy and Ralph and a few others. These want a civilised island. However Jack and his group are the bad and in majority and they crush (kill) the minority. Golding uses this as an example to show what goes on in reality and in his society,

Golding also uses the simulation of the island life to show that without infrastructure, like the law, religion, education, and the economy, man would resort to primitive behaviour.

For example, the responsibility of the collapse of civilisation cannot just be blamed on Jack and his tribe. It was also to do with the ability not to do simple things like provide shelter (Infrastructure). Ralph and Piggy favour a system, which favours a system, which requires a civilised and orderly society, but there is a lot of information showing the collapse of the infrastructure of this society.

Most of the huts do not even reach completion, it is arguable whether the fire would have been maintained even without the desertion of the hunters, there is no adequate food, hygiene or checking of numbers. Jack resorts to primitive behaviour very quickly, by killing the pig and acting in an old ritualistic way. Without Jack killing pigs for food everyone would have starved. Also without the conch bringing some order and law to the island the collapse of civilisation was imminent.

Lord of the flies takes a pessimistic view of things as it stresses why societies are such a failure. All the bad happenings are the worst-case scenario of a society. Golding manages simultaneously to say that democracy and morals are vital in a society, than just rules and dictatorships. However, human nature and failure make democracy unachievable and “Lord of the Flies” represents this error in human nature. For example on the island Jack becomes a dictator and in the end it leads to disaster. This shows why Golding asks his question, which he wrote in his book, “What are we? Humans? Or Animals? Or Savages?” Here Golding is asking what makes us humans rather than animals?

Golding also uses the setting to display his concern for the moral welfare of his society. He sets the novels on an unspoilt island, which separates the boys from the real world. By setting it on the island he makes us look closely at the actions of the characters and therefore the faults of mankind. The island has the potential to be a paradise but it is destroyed by the behaviour of the boys. This is parallel with the Garden of Eden. Golding is trying to say that the world could be a paradise but the nature of man destroys the world.

The setting also provides a sense of fear, which complements the feelings of certain characters. For example when Ralph is desperately frightened, thinking about the existence of the beast, the sea becomes mysterious ” Then the sleeping (huge monster) breathed out – the waters rose, the weed streamed, and the water boiled over the table rock with a roar.” The island is also described as powerful, “Some unknown force.” It was a powerful island and it was in contrast with the boy’s moods and behaviour throughout the novel. This gives some unknown magical force to the island contrasting with the setting in “Great Expectations.” In “Great Expectations the setting is very realistic with the times in which Dickens was writing. Golding tends to use the unrealistic setting to emphasize the wickedness of human nature whereas Dickens tends to base “Great Expectations” on real events or his own experience.

I will now discuss Charles Dickens concerns for the moral welfare of his society and how he communicates this through the characters and setting in “Great Expectations”. Great Expectations is based around a boy called “Pip”. He is the central character. Dickens makes a point of this using repetition of his name in the very first paragraph of the book. “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” The novel shows his journey trough life from his point of view, and he writes how he has arrived at the point he is at when writing. Other characters around Pip in the novel act as positive and negative influences on him and their ways of life show Dickens’s concerns for the moral welfare of his society.

One of Charles Dickens concerns is that people are increasingly being judged upon appearance and the superficial rather than behaviour towards others. This is portrayed in “Great Expectations” through a number of people and how people see them in the novel. When Compeyson and Magwitch are on trial we see how society judges people on their appearance and the superficial. Magwitch says that “I noticed first of all what a gentleman Compeyson looked, WI’ his curly hair and his black clothes and his white pocket-hankercher, and what a common sort of wretch I looked.” This shows the contrast between the two characters. The judge, judges these two characters on their appearance for Compeyson, the more gentlemanly looking, gets off much lighter than Magwitch, who was poorly dressed and had a bad background. The speech by Compeysons counsellor shows a lot about Dickens’s concern,

“My lord and gentlemen, here you has afore you, side by side, two persons as your eyes can separate wide; one, the younger, well brought up. Who will be spoke to as such; onr, the elder, ill brought up, who spoke to as such; one, the younger, seldom, if ever seen in these here transactions, and only suspected; t’other, the elder, always seen in ’em and always wi’ his guilt brought home. Can you doubt, if there is but one in it, which is the one, and if there is two in , which is much the worst one?” And such-like. “. . . And when it come to character, warn’t it Compeyson as had been to the school, and warn’t it his schoolfellows as was in this position and in that, and warn’t it him as had been know’d by witnesses in such clubs and societies, and nowt to his disadvantage?

And warn’t it me as had been tried afore, and as had been know’d up hill and down dale in Bride wells and Lock-Ups? And when it come to speech-making, warn’t it Compeyson as could speak to ’em WI’ his face dropping every now and then into his white pocket-handkercher – ah! and wi’ verses in his speech, too – and warn’t it me as could only say, ‘Gentlemen, this man at my side is a most precious rascal’? And when the verdict come, warn’t it Compeyson as was recommended to mercy on account of good character and bad company, and giving up all the information he could agen me, and warn’t it me as got never a word but Guilty? . ”

This shows how society and the justice system treated people who looked like gentlemen, not people who were true gentlemen. The counsellor here is asking the people to judge the two men on account of the way they look not what they have to say. He is also saying that it’s not what you know; it’s whom you know that will make you successful in life. Dickens opposes this view and it is one of his main concerns for society. Dickens view of a Gentleman is shown through Joe. Joe is a simple honest Blacksmith who has married Pip’s sister. At the beginning of the novel, he is Pip’s friend and stands out from the more devious characters around Pip. Joe continues to be an honest and simple character throughout the novel even when Pip becomes snobbish and abrupt towards Joe.

At the start of the novel Pip is a simple and kind-hearted boy. However when he meets Estella he begins to change. Since Estella has referred to him as “common” he does not want to lead his life as an apprentice at the forge with Joe. When he finds out that he has come into a great fortune, Pip ignores his family and friends who were the nicest to him in case they embarrass him when he becomes a gentleman. He soon learns how to spend money freely and runs up large bills.

Dickens also shows that wealth can corrupt people. This is shown when Pip describes his spending habits,

“We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one. ”

He helps Herbert and he feels that this is the only good thing that comes out of his “Great Expectations”. He soon realizes that it is not wealth and social status that makes him a gentleman. It is kind-heartedness, honesty and faithfulness. This is also what Dickens considers to be a true gentleman. “…no man who was not a true gentleman at heart ever was, since the world began, true gentleman in manner….no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself.”

This quote shows that if you are not a true gentleman at heart then you can never be a true gentleman. Even if you have all the wealth in the world it will just expose more what you really are. This shows a number of Dickens concerns. Firstly, that money isn’t everything, as later in the novel Pip comes to find out. Also you should stay loyal to your family and true friends. He sees snobbery as a negative influence upon people portrayed by Pip.

Another of Dickens’s concerns is that of increasing crime. This can be shown not only in Great Expectations but also through a range of his novels.

There are a lot of things in “Great Expectations” that are centered around crime. For example in the scene at the Three Jolly Bargemen when Mr. Wopsle reads a newspaper article about “a highly popular murder” .Pip, himself, is aware of the presence of crime in both his life and London and in society following his second visit to New gate Prison:

“I consumed the whole time in thinking how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening I should have first encountered it; that, it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a strain that was faded but not gone; that, it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement”

The “taint of poison and crime” encountered “out on our lonely marshes” is referring to the novel’s opening chapter when Pip first meets the escaped convict Magwitch. In fact, Pip’s first line of dialogue is to do with violence: “‘O! Don’t cut my throat sir!'” But Dickens isn’t just using violence for violence’s sake. Dickens wants his target audience to feel towards Magwitch who proves to be less criminal than your first impressions of him. Dickens uses Magwitch to persuade his audience not to judge someone on first impressions, representing a more open minded view of criminals. Dickens first wrote his novels in serial form in a magazine. This magazine was read by middle class and this is what Dickens target audience was.

Dickens was attempting to influence these middle class people to judge people not just on first impressions and Dickens communicated this message through Magwitch and a few other characters. A particular reason for the reference to crime in “Great Expectations” and other novels is maybe due to the fact that his father was imprisoned for debt. Also around the time that Dickens wrote this novel there was increasing commercialism, therefore there was an increase in the variety of goods, therefore mass production and this led to envy and therefore crime. It has probably left its mark on Dickens, which can be seen through “Great Expectations.”

Another main concern of Dickens’s is that society should not be class biased and see rising up the ranks as the only course in life.

In the novel many characters see social climbing as the only way of succeeding in life. For example Pumblechook is a successful corn-chandler who visits the forge to see Joe. He is obsessed to climb the social ladder. He looks up to Miss Havisham because she is of a higher class. When he gets a Pip a place with Miss Havisham to play games, it is much for his own benefit as it is for Pips, “Uncle Pumblechook, being sensible that for anything we call tell, this boy’s fortune may be made by his going to Miss Havisham’s..” Another character trying to climb the social ladder is Mrs. Joe as can be seen when see has guest round..” My sister (Mrs. Joe) was uncommonly lively on the present occasion, and indeed was generally more gracious in the society of Mrs. Hubble than in other company.”

In the time of Dickens writing this novel the Industrial Revolution increased the wealth among different people, which therefore increased social mobility, and therefore there was a less fixed class structure. Dickens also criticises the way society functioned. He had concerns not only of the way people acted in society but also about crime, explained above, poverty, living conditions and therefore overcrowding in cities. The Industrial Revolution also introduced great poverty; the working conditions in the factories were terrible. Child labour was out of control. London bred crime and disease.

The setting also is an important part of communicating Dicken’s concerns for is society. In Great Expectations there is a slight contrast between the city and the country. London is the scene of corruption, confusion, and problems, while the country is a place innocence and honesty. This is contrasted with the peace of the countryside.

It is also quite scenic and not very polluted. However in the countryside is obscured by the “Hulk lying out a little way from the mud of the shore, like a wicked Noah’s ark.” By saying this I think that Dickens’s is trying to say that there is no clear contrast between the countryside and London. For example there are people in the countryside like Pumblechook who is snobbish and selfish.

To conclude, I think that both Golding and Dickens’s have many concerns for the moral welfare of their societies, which are discussed above. They communicate these messages through the actions of the characters and setting in their novels. I believe they have succeeded in their attempt to communicate their concerns for society. Dickens view of childhood is almost opposite to Golding’s. The young people in Dickens’ novel at first maybe non-sensitive and immoral but as the novel progresses these people learn from their mistakes or get punished for their mistakes. However, Golding’s novel or the wickedness in humanity is an extreme where he portrays the wickedness through the killing of certain boys.

I think that Golding did this to create the sense of shock that small boys could do such a thing. This lies in contrast with the more realistic scenario of Dickens. There is a similarity between the two novels, which is that the authors both use young boys to display their concerns for the welfare of their society. However Golding seems to take it to the extreme and Dickens tends to make it realistic and a projection of his own character.

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Both Golding and Dickens have concerns for the moral welfare of their societies. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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