In "Lord of the Flies," at what point in this book is the reader informed of where evil originates?"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In the very first paragraph of the very first chapter of the novel 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding there is a Shakespeare-like allusion to evil-doers as represented by witches:

'a bird, a vision of red and yellow,flashed upwards with a witch-like cry'

So there we have it, right at the start - William Golding is starting as he means to go on - with the theme of evil. The boys find themselves in  a tropical island jungle, a place that some people associate with black magic and voodoo even today. Native peoples cultivated shamans and witch-doctors to counter the forces of evil before ever a Christian missionary set foot in the place. They also were capable of ignorant and bad acts themselves.An interesting concept would be to follow the idea of the show 'Lost' and have the evil emanating from the island itself as a sci-fi fantasy plot, where evil is attached to places and strives to suck in the unwary. Were the birds 'warning' the boys and us as readers of the danger?

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jseligmann | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Do you want to see something really amazing? Look here, in Chapter 5:

A flurry of wind made the palms talk and the noise seemed very loud now that darkness and silence made it so noticeable. Two grey trunks rubbed each other with an evil speaking that no one had noticed by day.

Did you see it? The word "evil." Well, guess what: that is the only time that word is used in the entire novel. How smart of Golding, how shrewd.

What we all think we are looking at in this story of stranded boys is how things fall into chaos, power grabbing, destruction, selfishness, egotism, violence and murder... all things we associate with evil. But, as much as evil may (or may not) be implied, it is never spelled out as such. For, the novel may be suggesting: Who's to say? Who's to judge?

Simon sees the rotting pig's head, the indifferent buzzing flies, and it speaks to him of manunkind's baser instincts. Is it speaking of evil? Would Jack have heard the same thing from the head of the pig he and his band had just impaled? Would he have cared?

And what if no naval officer ever came to the island, and the group of painted hunters were the only ones to survive and flourish? Would they see themselves as evil? And outside of the island in the big world, after the war was over, would the winning side see itself as the aggressor and as the evil empire?

How telling that Golding avoided the question of pure good and real evil, for he knew that history and the truth are written by those who survive and who gain and retain power. People act as they will; evil is a judgment of others that is made by the weak, the innocent, and the vanquished... or by the powerful in order to gain more power.

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"Lord of the Flies" is definitely a novel that has some things to say about the source of evil in our lives.  Take a look at what happens throughout the course of the book.  You have, stranded on an island, a bunch of little kids.  In our society, kids are supposed to be innocent, naive, kind, loving, and without guile or evil.  However, by the end of the book, these same kids are hunting each other down and killing them one by one.  It's a pretty pessimistic view.

So, does that mean that Golding is saying that the source of evil comes from within each one of us?  Does everyone, including little kids, have an evil potential that is just fighting to get out and destroy everything?  Possibly--that is definitely part of what happened in this book.  Bad things couldn't have happened if these kids didn't have a little bit of bad in them.  So that is part of the equation.  Evil originates from within the human soul.  However, we can't rule out the other factor that led to such chaos, and that was the total lack of control, organization, leadership, rules, laws and civilization on the island.  No matter how much we think rules, government, leadership and boundaries are restrictive and repressing, they are necessary factors in any society.  Any group of people need to have leaders and rules to follow, that keep evil at bay.  We need guidelines and checks to keep power-grubbing, greed and violence from being the determining factors in a society.  Laws exist to curb the evil in mankind, and to help people live up to their utmost potential, fulfilling mankind's more idealistic traits.

Golding asserts that it is the unfortunate combination of evil that comes from within that is left unfettered and uncontrolled by civilization and law that leads to chaos and destruction.  We can all take lessons away from that, and learn to pay attention to our own motives, and to better appreciate laws that help society to function.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter Eight of "The Lord of the Flies," as the boys begin their work in order to move the fire from the mountain, Simon slips away, heading towards his secret spot in the jungle.  There he encounters the head of a sow that Jack and the hunters have decapitated. 

The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life.  They assured Simon that everything was a bad business.

'I know that.'

Simon surprises himself at his words, uttered from intuition.  For, in this spot where "what was real seemed illusive, and without definition," Simon knows that evil has sprung from the hearts of the boys; it is intrinsic:  "his [Simon's] gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition": the Lord of the Flies is Beelzebub.  Who better to recognize evil?

When Simon looks the Beast in the eye, he falls into a  seizure as "demoniac figures with faces of white and red and green rushed out howling....""  In this chapter, the beast is finally revealed, 'a grotesque monument" (enotes) to the boys' increasing savagery.  As Simon lies in the secret place, the Beast tells him,

Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill?....You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you?   Close, close, close!  I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?


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