Why does William Golding use British schoolboys as the characters in his novel, The Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Golding's Lord of the Flies was written in response to another British novel, The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne. In this novel, British schoolboys land on what they believe to be a deserted island, but, instead, find that there are natives there. The boys manage to create a fair replica of British society as they conquer the savages and civilize the island environment.

Golding's novel, on the other hand, undercuts Ballantyne's romantic notion of man's inherent goodness as the British schoolboys who land on an uninhabited island fail to remain civilized. Instead, the natural depravity of which man is capable defeats the conditioning of the British society and many of the boys revert to savages themselves. 

After Jack's and Roger's sadistic urges increase and their power dominates the other boys, Ralph finds himself hunted on the island following the death of Simon and Piggy. He tries to hide, but the hunters burn the brush in which they suspect he is hiding in their efforts to flush him out.  

As the fire engulfs much of the island, a British warship passes close enough to notice the fire. A British naval officer disembarks on the island and asks them what they have been doing, inquiring if they are playing war. He scolds Ralph and the other painted bodies who emerge from the beach:

“I should have thought,” said the officer as he visualized the search before him, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys—you’re all British, aren’t you?—would have been able to put up a better show than that—I mean—”

Then, the officer turns around and his eyes "rest on the trim cruiser in the distance." Ironically, he gives the boys time to pull themselves back together into the civilized boys that he believes they should have been despite their environment and the world war going on. For, he does not seem to understand himself the innate depravity of human nature.

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Lord of the Flies

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