What is Golding trying to say about human nature in Lord of the Flies?

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The primary message that William Golding conveys throughout Lord of the Flies is that mankind is inherently wicked and savage. In the story, a group of civilized British boys crash-land on an uninhabited tropical island, where they attempt to establish a civil, organized society. Shortly after landing on the uninhabited...

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The primary message that William Golding conveys throughout Lord of the Flies is that mankind is inherently wicked and savage. In the story, a group of civilized British boys crash-land on an uninhabited tropical island, where they attempt to establish a civil, organized society. Shortly after landing on the uninhabited island, the boys gradually descend into savagery as hysteria surrounding the identity of an enigmatic beast dramatically impacts their perspective and behavior.

Jack ends up usurping power, and his tribe of bloodthirsty savages hunt pigs and end up killing Piggy and Simon. Both Ralph and Piggy, who are archetypes for civilization, structure, and order, also descend into savagery at various moments in the story and play a role in Simon's death. Simon is depicted as a Christ-figure who is the only boy aware of the beast's true identity. In chapter eight, the Lord of the Flies confirms Simon's belief that the beast is humanity's inherent wickedness and cannot be killed.

The fact that innocent British boys could descend into savagery in an environment without adults, laws, and regulations emphasizes Golding's message that mankind is inherently evil. It is also significant that the events transpiring on the island take place in the midst of a war, underscoring the theme of humanity's inherent wickedness.

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In most forewords, Golding is quoted as saying that the writing of the novel was "an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature." He was essentially suggesting that humans have the inherent capacity to be evil--that, when removed from the boundaries of society and civilization, even the most innocent of us--in this case, children--can become savage and power-hungry.

Though Jack's transformation is shocking, the fact that many of the boys follow in his nature without so much as a moment's hesitation is the true terror, and even Ralph's "good" boys are irredeemable at times. Simon is given the penultimate line of the book when he sees the Beast, looks "within" it, and hears it speak. The Beast tells Simon that they are one in the same, that each of them are as much a "beast" in these circumstances.

Many of the symbols of humanity, civilization, logic, and reason are destroyed or disrespected in the novel. For instance, Piggy's glasses are lost, the conch is ignored after only a short time in use, and the fire is neglected, thus symbolizing in itself the absence of civilization, though it is less an absence and more a choice made--another pointed statement by Golding.

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