Is the novel Lord of the Flies pessimistic about the human capacity of good?

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bigdreams1's profile pic

bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Kind of. I think Golding was studying the capacity of humans to function together or do good without the covering of civilization.

We see in the beginning, when Ralph is elected chief and Piggy (one of the symbols of civilization) is there to advise him that there is relative peace on the island. While things are not perfect, on the whole the boys get along and at times are even rather caring to each other.

However, when civilization starts falling away (Jack leaves, his tribe steals Piggy's glasses, they kill Piggy and Simon) humanity also falls away and the boys revert to the pre-civilized era of the 'savage'.

Now, when civilization (which is what separates us from the animals) is gone...the behaviors associated with civilization also disappear. Kindness, sharing, looking out for the needy in society, and similar characteristics of a "civilized" society leave and yes...the author definatly expresses doubt that humans capacity for good can exist under these conditions.

In short, I believe that Golding is saying that government and societal order are essential for humans to be all they can be, but without the protection of civilization humans do not know how to elevate the human condition.

susan3smith's profile pic

susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Most definitely.  Williams Golding's novel The Lord of the Flies shows that the evil forces outweigh the good.  Consider the fate of the characters representing goodness, for instance. The compassionate and insightful Simon is brutally murdered by a frenetic mob; the wise and rational Piggy is murdered in cold blood by a laughing Roger.  Even the responsible leader Ralph becomes the mob's next victim and would have most likely certainly suffered the same fate as the other two if not for the intervention of the naval officer.  Without the laws and rules of civilization, the temptation to become savage is too great. Golding shows that man in his most natural state is more likely to follow the laws of the jungle than the laws of civilization. 

Simon recognizes this fact when he announces in the meeting described in Chapter 5 that the beast is us.  Later in one of the most powerful scenes in which Simon talks with the Lord of the Flies, he is told that the beast is not "something that  you can hunt and kill."  The beast lies within, and  is omnipresent. 

As the boys break up into their warring factions, Golding reminds us that the adult world is doing no better.  Engaged in a world war of their own, they are destroying their world just as surely as the boys are destroying theirs.  The naval officer's rescue of the boys is only an illusion.  Their truly is no escape from the human capacity for evil. 

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