Lord of the Flies Essay
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“More than 70,000 people died each at Hiroshima on August 6 and at Nagasaki on August 9” (Dropping the Bomb… 1). In 1941, The United States used a nuclear weapon upon the Japanese to end to Second World War. This war had been witness to some of the worst actions humans have ever committed. “Nazi death camps and the millions who died in them revealed the depths of human misery and evil” (World War II 3). Consequently, it is understandable that many authors from this time period expressed their opinions on this subject in their literature.
William Golding (1911-1993) lived through this war and was scarred by it. Directly following the use of the atomic bomb in World War II, William Golding uses his novel, Lord of the Flies, to comment on the lack of innocence in human nature. When he discussed his book, William Golding stated that the work stemmed from “years of brooding that brought [him] not so much to an opinion as a stance.
It was like lamenting the lost childhood of the world” (Golding, A Moving Target 163). Overall, the work is Golding’s response to the tragedies of WWII.
Firstly, Golding defines innocence as the “ignorance of self” and the loss of innocence as attaining the “tragic knowledge” of self (Keating 4). The connotation of the word tragic reveals that Golding has a grim outlook on the inherent qualities of man. With this in mind, the reader can see how initially the boys on the island are innocent. “‘While we’re waiting we can have a good time on this island. ‘ He gesticulated widely. ‘It’s like in a book. ‘” (Golding, Lord…34). Golding’s usage of the simile comparing the boy’s new adventurous life on the island to a book explains that the boys are not fearful, but they are excited and cheerful.
This can be determined because the quality of the book that is being stressed in the comparison is its fictional story; therefore the comparison lets the reader see that they do not take their situation seriously. It is clear that in the beginning of the story the boys are carefree and happy-go-lucky. Golding however knows that this is not human nature, “What I’m saying to myself is, ‘Don’t be such a fool, you remember when you were a boy, a small boy, how you lived on that island with Ralph and Jack and Peterkin. Now you are grown up, you can see people are not like that’” (Golding qtd Kermode 10).
Finally, Golding understands that people are not as lighthearted as the boys seem to be; Golding makes the boys mature throughout the course of the novel such that he can comment on the human condition through them. Furthermore, since WWII has made him believe so, Golding specifically is trying to say in this book that humans are inherently evil. With the use of setting (an island with no adults and no society) Golding gives the boys the ability to express their innermost qualities with no tangible punishments.
The first real instance involving multiple boys that sink to evil is the scene when the hunters murder the sow. The pig-hunting of former days has been relatively innocent, but to fully dramatize the deep inner evil that takes possession of the boys… Golding depicts more than a mere killing” (Johnston 3). Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his spear wherever pigflesh appeared. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his spear and began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream.
Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her. (Golding, Lord… 125) For example, this quote illustrates quite vividly how atavistic the hunters have become. The diction that Golding uses in this section is purposeful. The words Golding has chosen are meant to parallel the concept of rape. It is in this paragraph that the hunters lose their innocence, in the physical sense of rape, and the symbolic sense of understanding what they are capable of, murder.
In both cases however it is very clear that these boys have begun to lose their grip on their morals. In this case as compared to the earlier attempted murder of a pig which was unsuccessful, the ability to kill has come at the price of the boys’ innocence (Golding, Lord…31). Overall, as the novel progresses Golding’s message becomes clearer, and he displays that the evil qualities in people are intrinsic and they cover the innocence. Correspondingly, the hunting becomes increasingly destructive as time goes on and Golding makes the message clearer still. Pig-hunting was a source of food to the good of group but when Jack refused to recognize the validity of the rules and subjugate before his powerful instinct, the productive task became a destructive task and genocide was rampant. ” (Anjum, Nawaz, Ramzan 4).
The mob mentality found in the tribe of hunters and the lack of society’s boundaries is what leads the hunters to kill their friends. When Simon came down from the mountain in an epileptic haze and stumbled into the hunter’s dance they were chanting, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! (Golding, Lord… 153). Chanting is a very primitive act, less than singing, yet more commanding than just speaking. Golding’s choice to use a chant collectively addresses the group’s mob mentality and atavistic tendencies.
This group then proceeds to attack and kill Simon. This transgression, the murder of their friend, is a strike against the boys’ innocence. The next morning however, Piggy cannot deal with the truth and so in an attempt to maintain his innocence he suggests that they should forget about the whole act (Golding, Lord… 157). [Piggy] searches desperately for any defense against the accusation, for the essential thing is to maintain one’s innocence” (Reilly 7). In accordance with Golding’s definition of innocence, by blocking out the truth about that night, Piggy is trying to maintain his innocence because he is maintaining his ignorance about the human condition and its evil abilities. Finally, the hunt for Ralph is the last and most extreme of all of the hunting expeditions. “[The Hunters] had smoked him out, and set the island on fire” such that Ralph could not backtrack and escape his death (Golding, Lord…197).
All of the hunters searched for Ralph in a race across the island and Ralph was left to run like prey. However they ran out of beach and were met with a naval officer and his ship. Golding ended the novel in this was to create an ironic situation that would bring the theme, human nature lacks innocence, into the real world. Golding did this by having the officer say, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys…would have been able to put up a better show than that…” (Golding, Lord… 201-202). This line is surrounded in irony because the war that the boys were having is just as horrid as the war that the naval officer was involved in.
The dialogue Golding uses for the officer connects the lack of innocence to the human nature that exists outside of the island and in all of our homes. Additionally, when Ralph is confronted with how much he has changed since he arrived at the island, he recognizes his and all of humanity’s true, inner self and then, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the… true, wise friend called Piggy” (Golding, Lord… 202). Golding finishes the novel in this way such that the reader can draw connections into their lives and their hearts.
But specifically, “Its initial success reflected post-war pessimism, the loss of what Golding has called his generation’s ‘liberal and naive belief in the perfectability of man’ ” (van Vuuren 1). Overall, Golding wished to express his view that humans were inherently lacking innocence as his response to WWII. All in all, William Golding used diction, characterization, plot, irony, similes and metaphors to explain his stance on the human condition after witnessing the destructiveness that came out of World War II.
His unique perspective was passed on through the words into the reader’s life where it could stay and make them think about the world with a different perspective. The transitions from innocence to corruption in the hunters has opened the readers eyes, and it has painted the picture of WWII in a new light. William Golding responded to his experiences, and his attempt to pass on his opinions about how humans are lacking innocence in their nature created the work that is Lord of the Flies.