In Lord of the Flies, does Golding believe that humans are born good then corrupted by society or are we born evil and need society/law to help us maintain order?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Lord of the Flies forces people to examine their own consciences and consider what drives us to do the things we do. Golding, affected by his own diillusionment intended that Lord of the Flies should

trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. 

Golding, educated in a private school and having had a sheltered upbringing, was shocked by the events of World War II and questioned the moral fibre of humanity. He was inspired to write Lord of the Flies in an attempt to portray ,in this case, the boys' inclination towards savagery, outside the confines of rules, regulations and, most of all, "grown ups."

It is the leadership battle between Ralph - essentially good - and Jack - essentially brutal and soon to be unrestrained- that reveals the conflict within.

Both Ralph and Jack have been brought up "properly." Ralph's father is a naval officer and has instilled qualities in Ralph that, combined with Piggy's logic, help Ralph to keep order - for a while at least. Jack is a public schoolboy - head of the choir - and therefore, seemingly, very respectable.

Jack relishes his new-found independence on the island and despite his annoyance at not being voted as leader, he sets about using his skills to outwit Ralph. He does lead the hunters - a strategy to start working his way towards beating Ralph - and even persuades Ralph to join him when they go to look for the beast. It is the faint image of the dead parachutist that foreshadows (chapter 6) the ultimate decline of the boys and 

suggests the destruction of the rational society envisioned by Ralph and Piggy.

There is an acknowledgement by Golding, in creating the character of Simon, that there are those who are above the law and who, regardless of circumstances, will not lose their moral sense or spirituality.  By contrast, the figure of Roger represents those who, too, are unaffected by circumstance. But, in his case, it is his ruthlessness that seems to be inherent in him.  

Simon's capacity to understand that  "maybe [the beast is] only us"  and that he has the potential to save the group is almost overwhelming for Simon who must pay the ultimate price. Roger, secretive and reticent, comes into his own when he can paint his face and hide behind the mask it creates as it frees him "from shame and self-consciousness,"

It is significant that it is the re-emergence of the adult world- when the Captain arrives onshore- that saves Ralph, who has been unable to save himself by any other means, from the utter destruction of himself and the remaining boys. 

Golding has set up his story to show - in his opinion - that it is the rules and laws that hold society together and not inherent goodness.

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