Is Golding pessimistic or optimistic about the future of mankind based on what he has written in Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When William Golding wrote his Lord of the Flies in response to Ballantyne's Coral Island, a novel in which British boys are stranded on a tropical island, but the boys overcome the evil forces of the natives and survive in peace with one another, he had abandoned his preconceptions of man as essentially pure and good, with society as evil.  For, having served in the Royal Navy of England, Golding witnessed first hand the sinking of the Bismarck, and he participated in the D-Day invasion of Germany in World War II.  After these experiences, he stated,

When I was young before the war, I did have some airy-fairy views about man....But I went through the war and that changed me.  The war taught me different and a lot of others like me.

In Lord of the Flies, Golding has the characters "behave as they really would," to use the words that he said when he discussed writing the novel to his wife.  Thus, the tone, or attitude of the author is neither pessimistic nor optimistic--at least to Golding.  It is simply realistic.  Given the situation of the schoolboys stranded upon an island away from a civilization that "knows nothing" of them, boys such as Roger and Jack revert to their intrinsic sadistic and savage natures.  The "beast" within them communicates to the intuitive boy, Simon:

"You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you?....I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?"

Having witnessed the destructive power and evil in men in World War II, it is a darkly realistic portrayal of man's nature that Golding presents in his novel.  Perhaps, his view is rather pessimistic after his horrific war experiences, but it is a pessimistic view shared by many of his era as well as the Book of Genesis:

At the door [through which the newborn child issues] sin crouches.  (Genesis 4:7)

[God to Noah] "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Genesis 8:21)



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Lord of the Flies

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