Please describe the view of human nature presented in "The Lord of the Flies"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The view of human nature in "The Lord of the Flies" is open to interpretation.  While the struggle is seen as civilization vs. savagery, the interpretation of what causes the regression of the boys, representing human nature, to the darkness of the human soul is what is debated.  Is savagery intrinsic and civilization mere trappings of elevation of human nature?  Certainly, history confirms that once there is a breakdown in society, cruel and savage actions do occur.

In his study, "Lord of the Flies:  Fathers and Sons," critic Patrick Reilly states that the novel has been read as three types of fables:  moral fable of personal disintegration, social fable of social regression, and religious fable of the fall of man.Without civilization, Ralph the golden boy, the figurehead, is ineffective as a leader and Piggy as an adult figure cannot hold his own.  Without the trappings of civilization, the young boys revert to little savages, superstitious and fearful enough to follow others; the older boys Jack and Roger embrace evil.  Without goodness, the boys are capable of murder as they slaughter the truly good Simon and knock Piggy and the conch down the mountain with a swift, savage blow.

Yet, which element is victorious?  Reilly explains Golding's novel as a "dark epiphany":  The evil in man as a whole is balanced by the Simons within; the individual heart can be rescued from the darkness. 

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Lord of the Flies

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