Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What are some examples of nature and nurture theories of aggression in Golding's Lord of the Flies?

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Allegorical in nature, William Golding's Lord of the Flies examines the intrinsic nature of man.  In what is similar to a Garden of Eden, on the island where the boys are stranded from their country, they begin to shed the vestiges of society, revealing what is their inherent nature.  That certain of the boys are naturally aggressive is evinced in the character of Roger, especially.  In Chapter Four, for example, Roger espies little Henry on the beach and feels the innate urge to hurt the boy; however, the constraints of his society at first prohibit his nature:

Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry--threw it to miss.  The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounced five yards to Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw.  Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life.  Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.  Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.

However, later in the narrative, Roger's inhibitions no longer exist and his sadistic nature fully reveals itself and is satiated in his cruel acts, such as following Ralph up the mountain and pounding threateningly with a large stick the log upon which Ralph rests. His act of raw sadism is, of course, his vaulting of the pink granite boulder upon Piggy's head that crushes and casts Piggy into the sea as Roger senses "some source of power" pulsing in his body:

High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever.

Likewise, Jack descends into savagery as he eliminates the prohibitive trappings of controlled society.  By painting his face, Jack disguises civilization:

The others nodded.  They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought.

Released from these restraints of the appearance of civilization, Jack's innate nature is revealed further in the narrative as he and the hunters, who are also painted, surround Simon in a ritualistic frenzy and beat the innocent boy to death.

Removed from the restraints of modern civilization, many of the boys of Lord of the Flies regress to the savage nature that is intrinsic to man.  For, as Simon intuitively acknowledges, the "beast" is no creature at the top of the mountain or out of the sea; the beast is within the heart of the boys. In Chapter Eight, the lord of the flies tells Simon,

"You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you?  Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?"

Clearly, Golding's novel presents an argument that man's basic nature contains evil and must be conditioned and controlled in order to prevent damaging effects to society.

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