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I did not learn anything from this book because it is fiction. I learned what William Golding thinks but I did not learn what is actually true. As far as what Golding thinks:
- I agree with your second point about people having dark sides. Golding clearly says that.
- I do not agree with your first point. Jack and his hunters are not doing this stuff to survive.
- I would say he thinks that civilization will not be able to overcome barbarism if people are just left on their own. (But then why do we have civilization at all?)
- He also thinks that people who are strong will always pick on people who are weak.
The French philosopher of the Enlightenment, Denis Diderot, wrote, "The truest history is full of falsehoods, but the romance [meaning a novel] is full of truths." And, for those who discount the old writers as of little worth nowadays, a contemporary author, Stephen King, said, "Fiction is the truth behind the lie." In all worthy fiction, there is always an underlying truth that can be discovered by the discerning reader. Certainly, history attests to this as, for example, many of the ideals that gave birth to both the American and the French Revolution were spawned from writings by the great philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His novel, Emile, or On Education, is a seminal treatise on education of the whole person for citizenship; in fact, many of Rousseau's ideals are part of modern education's philosophy today.
While Golding's allegory, The Lord of the Flies, is not on the level of the writings of some of history's great thinkers, there is much to be learned from it, as there is from other allegories of various cultures. One salient lesson that is proven in modern times is that children need guidance and discipline; without adults to establish rules of behavior there are inevitable problems. Piggy, whose appearance is that of an adult male--with his thinning hair and thick waistline and glasses--cautions from beginning to end about the need for organization and rules. When his glasses are stolen and the fire taken by Jack and the hunters, anarchy controls the island and the results are disastrous.
This is a story about the inherent sin nature in mankind--something we are all born with, for sure. (If you don't agree, think about toddlers who aren't taught to lie or be selfish but do so quite easily and often.) Without rules, some kind of checks and balances, this sin nature is free to take over our thoughts and actions. Lots of things can act as a restraint--laws, relationships, faith, to name a few. Ralph is able to maintain order and discipline, to a degree, and this acts as a restraint for the boys' actions. Piggy keeps things orderly and tries to hold them each accountable for their actions (an overwhelming task, with this bunch). Jack is on a path of selfishness from landing to rescue. These boys have nothing, in the end, to keep them from acting on their worst and most selfish impulses. That's clearly one of Golding's beliefs--and he has said as much if you've read his commentary in the book. The Lord of the Flies says, after all, the beast is us.
The main point that I took away from the novel is that the foundation of a society is in the belief of community that the members of that society hold--rules only work when the people who are supposed to function under them actually respect the rules as being necessary for their communal well-being. This did not happen in Lord of the Flies (nor does it happen in many sectors of our society).
I also think there is something to be said about the power of fear. The boys on the island were terrorized by an imaginary beast. It didn't exist, but just the thought of it made them behave differently. This fear contributed to them doing things that they wouldn't do in civilization. This fear is what leads the boys to side with Jack because he appears to be powerful and can protect them.
However, Jack uses fear and violence to keep his power. For example, he beats Wilfred out on Castle Rock to show his power. He also has the twins beaten to make them join the tribe. This is very evocative of dictators in history. Think about how many people have hurt or killed other people because they themselves were ruled by fear. Think Nazi Germany or the child soldiers in Uganda. When Jack beat Wilfred, it certainly put fear into the other boys as well.
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