Explain what you think the phrase "mankind's essential illness" means to Simon in "Lord of the Flies," chapter 5.

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ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, the setup.  All the boys are sitting around brainstorming about "the beast."  Does it live in the jungle, fly through the air, or come out of the sea?  The boys are convinced that the beast is a physical monstrosity straight out of a horror movie.

Simon feels differently, though he has a bit of a problem expressing it.  He says:

" 'What I meant is... maybe it's only us.'...Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind's essential illness."

In this case, the word "essential" relates more to the word "essence."  Using this definition, Simon is unable to really express what he feels about this sick part of man's nature.  Ironically, he is the only one able to grasp the truth of the situation...the beast was not a physical being to worry about, but rather the horrible instincts that exist inside of mankind.  Of course, the other children think that this is ridiculous, and Simon really can't articulate what he's trying to say.

kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Simon is the only one of the group who sees that what they have to fear is inside of human beings, namely, themsleves. Simon is not so verbal but perhaps that is because what he has to say is risky. To see oneself to be part of a larger problem is taking a risk. If we can name what is inside of us that is evil then we have a responsibility to tame it or choose not to act from than inner place. Simon is clearly the insightful one and the courageous one.

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Lord of the Flies

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