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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How is the theme of good vs. evil evident in Lord of the Flies?

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The theme of good vs. evil in "Lord of the Flies" is evident through characters and symbolism. Simon represents goodness, mirroring Jesus with his kindness and selflessness, while Jack embodies evil, leading a tribe into savagery and superstition. The novel also reflects the Biblical concept of inherent sinfulness, suggesting that without civilization's restraints, humans revert to their intrinsic, depraved nature.

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In the novel, there are many examples of good versus evil. Golding inserts in the novel many Christian symbols--the hit-you-over-the-head kind. For example, Simon is the Jesus figure: he is kind, works on the huts (Jesus was a carpenter), feeds the children fruit that they cannot reach (Jesus fed people in the Bible), and he goes to a private place with natural candles on the trees to meditate (similar to going to a church to pray). Simon is also the one who has the standoff with the beast--the boars head on the stick. This is where the beast informs Simon that there is no beast to be afraid of: they only have to be afraid of themselves--the beast within.

Furthermore, many experts believe that Jesus had epilepsy (a seizure disorder), and Simon has this condition, too. He has a seizure at the end of his conversation with the beast, which is why he has so much trouble walking down the mountain after he wakes up. He slinks down the mountain, hunched over, and the kids (at first) mistake him for the Beast. But then they know who it is and they kill him anyway--good versus evil again. As his body floats away, the head is surrounded by bioluminescent creatures that make a "halo" around it.

Then there is Jack versus Ralph. Jack creates a tribe, one that sacrifices animal parts to the Beast--very reminiscent of young civilizations. Maybe the Beast will be pleased and won't hurt them if they sacrifice these pigs heads. They have moved from science to superstition. Jack's henchmen, Roger and Maurice, are as evil as they come. Roger tortures kids, and he eventually kills Piggy with a large boulder.

Jack, at the end, reverts to human sacrifice, with a stick "sharpened at both ends" for Ralph, as he plans on sacrificing Ralph's head to the Beast. Then Jack's entire tribe hunts Ralph until they are rescued by the adults. All of the kids, with the exception of Simon, have let their inner beast out on the island at some point.

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Certainly, an argument can be made that the narrative of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is Biblical; for it follows the concept of Total Hereditary Depravity:

'All men are born in sin, children of the devil, totally depraved.' One is sinful, therefore, by nature of one's birth, rather than by willful rebellion against God. (Canons of Dordt)

This concept of infant depravity and sin is one embraced by many Christian religions; it is mentioned in the book of Genesis: 

And God saw that the wickedness of God was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (King James Bible-Genesis 6:5)

Only through baptism, then, can children begin their spiritual regeneration, many Christians believe.

It is interesting that Golding's narrative contains no girls or women--no Eves to tempt man.  Thus, it becomes apparent that Golding does believe that evil is inherent in man and not a result of outside forces; and, when the controls of civilization, which attempts the spiritual regeneration of man through religion and through moral laws, is removed, man regresses to his intrinsically degenerate nature.

The island, a virtual Garden of Eden, is invaded by "mankind's essential illness" that only Simon recognizes and the Lord of the Flies symbolizes.  Finally, at the point that he is rescued, Ralph comprehends, weeping for the "end of innocence" acquired by the abandoned spiritual regeneration of his society.

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The title "Lord of the Flies" is a Biblical one. It refers to Beelzebub (who is called Lord of the Flies), one of the seven princes of Hell. In literature, the term Beelzebub is often synonymous with evil and Satan. The theme of good vs evil is not only represented by the characters, but Golding believes that evil exists within each human heart. The "beast" of the island manifests itself in many ways. It is first an unsubstantiated fear, it is next manifested by the corpse of the parachutist and then a sow's head, and finally Simon metaphorically turns into a type of beast when he encouters and sow's head and freaks out.

The author's point is that all men are basically evil. It is not society that makes them evil. Evil exists in our hearts. By taking innocent children and putting them on a deserted island, far removed from grownups (society), Golding illustrates that eventually the evil within us will destroy us, even apart from the so-called evil influences of society. Man does not need society to destroy himself. He can do it pretty well all by himself. This is a Biblical theme because the Bible teaches that man is born into sin and the only redemption possible is through faith in God.

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Really, this whole book is about this theme.  You can see the theme in just about any interaction between Jack and Ralph or between the hunters and Piggy.  This is especially true later in the book.

In this book, evil is represented mostly by Jack (as a representative of the hunters) and by Roger.  Good is represented by Ralph and by Simon, in my opinion.

So I guess I would say that the best single example is when the hunters kill Simon.  There, we are seeing that when there is no civilization, evil will eventually run wild and will kill the good.  You can also see this in how Piggy is killed.  Finally, remember that Ralph only survives this book because civilization (the naval officer) saves him.

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According to the novel, Lord of the Flies are humans inherently good or evil?

Golding set out, in Lord of the Flies, to prove that humans are indeed basically savage and only civilization has made a difference to the way we behave - the need to conform. Lord of the Flies was

an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.

He believed that, once the rules no longer apply, conflicting human instincts and survival skills will cause man to descend into violence - survival being the only motivator.

Lord of the Flies, ..., essentially explores the dark side of what Golding felt was the true nature of man: evil.

At the same time, Golding does acknowledge that goodness is also present in each person who has the capacity to be

just, virtuous, or kind ...conforms to the moral order of the universe.

but, disillusioned from his experiences of war, even the good characters have a 'dark' side. There is a relativity to it and Ralph and Piggy especially, have the potential not to be swept away by evil. Their experience of it is enough for them to realize that goodness must prevail. Piggy's earlier appeal to Jack

not as a favor . . . but because what's right's right

is ineffectual on Jack as he no longer recognizes

a moral code where law and cooperation is best and killing is wrong.

Simon recognizes evil within us but his attempts - when he is relieved that the beast is not actually 'real' - bring real irony into the story as he still falls victim to this 'beast.'

Even the ultimate 'rescue' is steeped in meaning. As the boys are 'rescued' from the island, what are they returning to? They cannot recapture their lost innocence and they will return to a war-ravaged situation. Ralph, at the end, cries for 

the darkness of man’s heart.

However, to have a concept of everything that has happened, he must have an inherently 'good' side. Evil is so evil that it does not see the good but good can tell the difference!

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Can People be All Evil or All Good?A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

Good and bad are made up descriptions, constructs of language, not fundamental existential states. To me, this means that people cannot be fully described by these terms (or any terms). 

Also, morality is relative. It's ok to kill someone if you're at war with them because they will kill you if you don't kill them first. But it's not ok to kill someone if you're not at war with them. The act is the same, but the context is not. 

For this reason, the concepts of good and bad must be seen as being contextually relative and, thus, not absolute. 

Given these two arguments, it seems that people can be reasonably classified in a general way as being either good or bad as a description of the decisions they make in certain contexts. Assigning a "totally good" or "completely evil" designation to someone would be like saying that someone is "always the tallest person in the room", a claim that is almost sure to be false sometimes unless we're dealing with the tallest person in the world.

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Can People be All Evil or All Good?A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

Gut reaction is: Pure good cannot exist as man is by nature sinful. Pure evil can exist as is evidenced by some of societies most heinous individuals. However, man having a sinful nature is based upon a Christian philosophy. If that is the case, then since God created man in his own image, can pure evil really exist?

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Can People be All Evil or All Good?A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

This is a difficult conversation to have without designating the standards for good and evil.  How do you classify one or the other? It's easy to point a finger at Hitler and say he was evil or possessed evil characteristics because his case is extreme - but what about all of us?  What defines whether we are good or evil or part of both?

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Can People be All Evil or All Good?A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

I don't think I can find good in Hitler, but I can say that the boys did not come to the island all evil. The circumstances must have psychologically damaged them, and the freedom to act on their impulses unchecked allowed the evil to reach the levels it did. But, if the accident had never happened, I do not think the boys would have participated in evil acts in a civilized setting, at least not the majority of them.

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Can People be All Evil or All Good?A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

Can People be All Evil or All Good?

A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

The short answer is, no, people cannot be all good or all evil. The somewhat longer answer is, one of this novel's strengths is that it shows us how good requires a social structure in order to flourish. These were all "good boys" who got stranded here. However, without a context and guidance, their strengths went dark.

Greg

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Can People be All Evil or All Good?A recent question in the Q and A area got me thinking. One of the main themes in Lord of the Flies is good and evil... do you think anyone can be "pure evil" or "pure good"? Can a good person be brought down by a few bad traits, can an evil person be redeemed by good qualities? Have at it! 

Certainly those theologies that believe in Satan, or a figure like him, that rebelled against the pure goodness that is God--thinking based on such theologies would believe a person could be all of one or the other.  Of course, many (eastern) theologies do not endorse this bifurcastion, but the either / or principle of western thought certainly does.  It has much to do with the Manichean principle...if anyone would care to research that idea

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In Lord or the Flies what is good vs evil?

In "Lord of the Flies," good is representative of what is just, virtuous, and conforming to the social order.  When the boys first arrive on the island, they all have been conditioned enough to conform to the mores of their society.  Even the intrinsically evil Roger is so conditioned that he controls himself when he throws rocks at Henry playing with the little crabs at the shoreline.  However, as the narrative continues and the vestiges of society seem more and more remote to the boys, Jack and some others revert to a more savage nature.  The intrinsically good Simon intuitively recognizes the evil in human nature; unfortunately, he stumbles upon the feasting and ritual pig hunting of Jack and the others.  Viciously they pretend to mistake him for a pig, brutally beating him to death.  Sadly, Ralph and Piggy are witnesses to this killing; having been subjected to evil, they are both weakened. When Piggy is savagely hurled with a rock cracking his head, Ralph becomes totally vulnerable both externally and spiritually.  He only survives because the mores of British society reappear in the person of the sea captain who rescues Ralph and others.

Just as Jack and the others could not control the power of the fire, so, too, do those boys and others prove themselves unable to control the evil they have embraced.  Ironically, the fire that Jack has set to smoke out Ralph and kill him, becomes the very signal that alerts the outside world, and Ralph is rescued by the deus ex machina in the form of a naval officer.

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One of the major themes in Lord of the Flies is good versus evil. Can characters or people be all good or all evil?

This is a good topic for discussion; I've opened a discussion topic for it here. Come in and discuss this idea!

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One of the major themes in Lord of the Flies is good versus evil. Can characters or people be all good or all evil?

From the wording of the question, I would take this to mean "person" and not character. I don't believe that a person can be all good or evil. Humans are not that simple, they are a complex compilation of genetics, environment, society and culture.

Characters in a story can be either good or evil however, even when they remain flat characters. A character which is interesting to read about, like a real person, would have a combination of both good and bad characteristics.

The Lord of the Flies does not contain any one character who is only good or evil. Even Jack, who can be cast into the role is not purely evil as you could site the circumstances he finds himself in to have transformed him. Before the island, he was head choir boy and I doubt he would've been considered evil.

Each character in the story is to represent a type or an idealized version of one attribute. Piggy clearly represents intellect whereas Jack would represent brutish force. But evil or pure goodness does not exist.

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