Human Nature and Perspectives in "Lord of the Flies"

Categories: Allegory

William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies" delves into various perspectives on human nature through the characters of Piggy, Ralph, Jack, and Simon. Each of these characters holds a unique view on the inherent goodness or evil within individuals, shedding light on the complexities of human behavior when faced with the challenges of a deserted island. Golding's own perspective is subtly woven into the narrative, emphasizing the precarious balance between civilization and the inherent darkness lurking within us all.

Piggy and Ralph: The Belief in Inherent Goodness

Piggy and Ralph, two of the central characters, share a belief in the fundamental goodness of human nature.

They hold that evil emerges when something disrupts this innate goodness. From the moment they arrive on the island, Piggy and Ralph emphasize the importance of law and order as essential tools for maintaining civility.

One notable instance of their commitment to order occurs when they venture to Castle Rock in an attempt to restore order.

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Jack, who has asserted his dominance over the island, resists Ralph's leadership. Piggy and Ralph, however, still cling to the belief that the conch, a symbol of authority and order, should hold sway over Jack's territory. Ralph's unwavering belief in the power of law and order is evident when he declares, "the conch doesn't count at this end of the island" (Page 166). This statement underscores their conviction that the conch and Ralph's leadership should apply universally, regardless of location.

Ralph and Piggy also hold the belief that morality should prevail.

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When Jack and his followers, including Roger and Maurice, steal Piggy's glasses after a confrontation, Piggy and Ralph are outraged. Piggy's primary concern is the recovery of his glasses, as he states, "I can't see no more, and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things have been done on this island" (Page 188). Ralph, echoing Piggy's sentiments, emphasizes the importance of doing what is right: "What's right is right. Give me my glasses; I'm going to say you got to!" (Page 190).

For Piggy and Ralph, the act of stealing the glasses is seen as morally wrong, and they anticipate that Jack would return them because theft goes against their belief in the inherent goodness of individuals. In their perspective, if Jack had needed fire, he could have simply asked for it rather than resorting to theft. Unbeknownst to them, the theft of Piggy's glasses symbolizes an assertion of power over them, leaving Piggy vulnerable and weakening their chances of rescue.

Jack: The Use of Power and the Need for Sacrifice

Jack, on the other hand, represents a different perspective on human nature. His character is marked by a desire for power and control over others, and he believes in appeasing forces greater than himself through ceremony and sacrifice. From the outset, Ralph appoints Jack and his choir as hunters, recognizing Jack's inclination toward authority.

Jack's understanding of fear evolves throughout the novel. Initially, he is consumed by the fear of being watched and hunted, but he later learns to harness this fear for his own purposes. Jack uses a painted face as a mask, enabling him to detach from his identity and act with impunity. The anonymity it provides empowers him to pursue his desires without fear of consequences.

Jack employs chants and dances as a means of managing the collective fear of the beast that haunts the island. His approach to dealing with this fear is brutal and primitive, as exemplified by the ritualistic killing of a sow, followed by the gruesome placement of its head on a spear. Jack justifies this act by declaring, "The head is for the beast. It's a gift" (Page 151). His willingness to appease the imagined beast through such brutality highlights his belief in the necessity of ceremony and sacrifice.

Under Jack's leadership, the boys descend into a frenzy of fear-driven violence, as seen when they collectively chant, "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" (Page 168) during a thunderstorm. The hypnotic power of this chant underscores the depth of their fear and Jack's ability to manipulate their emotions. It is Jack's growing need for control and the belief that appeasing dark forces is essential that drives the narrative towards chaos.

Simon: The Advocate of Inherent Duality

Simon, in contrast to the other characters, serves as a proponent of a more nuanced perspective on human nature. He recognizes that both good and evil reside within each person. Throughout the story, Simon takes on the role of a Christ figure, displaying a unique insight into the duality of human nature.

Simon, who suffers from epilepsy and exhibits extrasensory perception (ESP), foresees the fate of both Ralph and himself. His words to Ralph, "You'll get back all right. I think so, anyway" (Page 121), demonstrate his ability to perceive the underlying truths of their predicament. During one of his seizures, he envisions his own death and hears the ominous voice of the "Lord of the Flies" declaring, "We shall do you. See? Jack and Roger and Maurice and Robert and Bill and Piggy and Ralph" (Page 159).

Simon's final moments are marked by a revelation that the beast they fear is not an external creature but a manifestation of the darkness within Jack and the other hunters. He believes in the importance of revealing this truth, regardless of the consequences. In the end, he becomes a sacrificial figure, offered up to perpetuate the evil on the island.


While Golding subtly weaves his own perspective into the narrative through the characters, his overarching view is that civilization serves as a fragile veneer, concealing the potential for darkness that resides within us all. As the boys remain isolated from the constraints of society, those harboring the darkness within them become increasingly primitive, destructive, and savage. The longer they are removed from civilization, the closer they come to embracing destruction and chaos.

In conclusion, "Lord of the Flies" presents a compelling exploration of human nature through the diverse perspectives of its characters. Piggy and Ralph believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, while Jack seeks power and control, using ceremony and sacrifice to appease perceived forces. Simon, on the other hand, recognizes the duality of good and evil within each person. Golding's own viewpoint suggests that beneath the veneer of civilization lies the potential for darkness, and the novel serves as a cautionary tale about the fragility of human morality in the face of isolation and fear.

Updated: Nov 10, 2023
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Human Nature and Perspectives in "Lord of the Flies". (2016, Nov 12). Retrieved from

Human Nature and Perspectives in "Lord of the Flies" essay
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