Throughout history man has proven that, when left to deal with the struggle between good and evil, our immortality often claims victory, meaning that we are essentially wicked. Upon examining history along with fictional characters in plays, novels, short stories, etc. , we recognize that man default to their immoral and sinful human nature, which plays a colossal role in our everyday lives. Religion provides us with the original interpretation of what is evil versus what is not, while society and knowledge apply this definition to today’s world.
The assessment of these characters morality invariably leads to one conclusion: good and evil are not opposite ends of a continuum but instead are inherent in every person’s psyche therefore, man in inherently evil. Human nature can be described as an everlasting struggle between the forces of light and dark within the human soul. Humans are at the mercy of this darkness around and within them and must consciously choose the light, leading to a righteous way of life.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding depicts this struggle between the light and dark sides of human nature, “Golding has been described as pessimistic, mythical, and spiritual- an allegorist who uses his novel as a canvas to paint portraits of man’s constant struggle between civilized self and his hidden darker nature” (Golding William 708). There are two groups of boys that represent each end of the continuum, those who gave into their evil nature, Jack and his followers, and those who resisted it, Piggy, Simon, and Ralph.
The novel demonstrates this inward struggle by providing multiple circumstances where the boys must subconsciously choose where their humanity lies. Just as our DNA is intertwined into us, so are the forces of evil. “There exists an unwritten but operative universal morality that is ultimately as inescapable as the hereditary forces that determine a person’s life”(Carpenter David). Roderick Usher from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” experiences this type of imminent suffering. It seems as if he can’t escape the forces of evil tugging at him from within.
This struggle causes his unavoidable unhappiness “in repeatedly frustrated and notably ironic efforts to find the locus of his “utter depression of soul” that it might be something inward does not occur and him, and cannot occur too” (Benoit Raymond). Because this evil is intertwined in his human nature he must suffer with it no matter his attempts to banish it. Human nature is not only shaped by the inescapable forces of the universe but we also look to society in order to further expand our role as human beings. Throughout history we have always been susceptible to the impact society has on our morality.
As time Progresses we evolve and society continues to shape our ideas on humans and Evil. In Lawrence’s poem “Snake” the slithering creature creates a well-known connection for readers. The snake represents evil at is earliest form, “Lawrence explores the otherness of the creature world, defined chiefly by its purity and innocence in contrast to the corrupt human world” (McFall Gardner). He uses the snake to tempt the main character much like the snake tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Because of society the presence of this creature raises red flags.
Rather than viewing nature as something beautiful, which it is, we connect it with evil all in thanks to what our corrupt world has taught us. In accordance with this theory, society can sometimes create, or bring out, the evil in a person’s human nature much like in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. “The Aptly named character of the Misfit serves as a symbol both of evil as well as a symbol of the villains’ inability to fit into society. ” Because of his familiarity with rejection the Misfit has given into his evil human nature. Ultimately this is caused because of the effect society has had on him.
Along with the Misfit, the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” shows signs of a dominantly evil human nature, “her insistence on dressing well so that people will know she is a lady, and her superficial interactions with her grandchildren are quite funny but also reveal the woman’s pride, pettiness, and self-centeredness” (Larson Susan). Although this is not the purest form of evil, her shallow actions show the effect society has on conditioning people to allow their evil nature to overrule their conscience. Much of what society bases itself upon is the
knowledge we have attain throughout history and what we continue to learn. As time progresses our knowledge continues to expand and further develops our attitude towards evil. The knowledge humans have acquired has, and continues to, greatly impact our view towards evil. In the novel, Lord of the Flies, Piggy’s character represents knowledge among the boys. He is primarily the only one who chooses to look towards reason to maintain his good human nature. “Piggy’s knowledge and believe in the power of science and rational thought to help people understand and thus control the physical” (Lord of the Flies 174).
He continuously asks the boy’s to use their common sense, and attempts to remind them of how they should be acting. Although his pleas go ignored William Golding shows that although it is a constant struggle, with reason and thought one can maintain their human nature even in the most uncivilized circumstances. Some may resort to their evil nature because knowledge is sometimes frightening, “The sun, which should represent life and the power or reason, can also be blinding” (Lord of the Flies 174). It is possible that by attempting to force knowledge into the boys, Piggy instead creates resentment.
He tries to show them the light, Jack and his many followers cloud the boy’s mind. They may choose this evil path because the power of reason is intimidating, and the easiest way of survival on the island is to succumb to their evil nature. The impact religion has over the battle between good and evil is a vital one. It is an inescapable and highly influential factor. The debate on whether human beings are naturally good or evil has been, and will continue to be one of the most controversial subjects humans have had to address.
Acknowledging the roles human nature, society, and knowledge play in this debate logically points us to believe that at the center of every human there is a dark nature. This nature must constantly be suppressed in order to lead an honorable life. The battle between light and dark within the human soul is one we will continue to fight because man was created inherently evil and is up to the individual to overcome the pull towards a corrupted and malevolent way of life.
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