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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What arguments oppose punishing the boys in Golding's Lord of the Flies for Simon's death upon returning to civilization?

Quick answer:

The boys are guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and Roger is guilty of first-degree murder.

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Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is a novel about many things, including survival; by the time the boys are rescued from the island, many of them have done things for which they could be punished when they return to civilization. Though it is true the boys are all young, even the youngest of them understands the difference between right and wrong and knows that killing someone is not acceptable behavior. Nevertheless, there are several arguments to be made for not punishing the boys when they return to their "normal" lives.

First, none of the boys (with the possible exception of Roger) should be officially punished in a court of law. The oldest among them is thirteen, and most of the awful things they did were done collectively. Roger is the exception because he is the one who levered the boulder which crushed Piggy; other than that exception, the court is not the proper dispensary of justice for what happened on the island.

Second, no one in a position of authority can know with any certainty who did what while on the island and what the proper punishment for it should be. We already know that children see things from a different perspective than adults, so any retelling of the events is likely to be skewed. 

Third, whatever any boy did while on the island will live with him for a very long time; in the case of the older boys, it is likely to last their entire lives. The guilt of participating in, watching, or failing to stop a murder is punishment enough for any of them. 

Finally, the case can be made that the boys have learned their lessons about doing harm to others. If you choose, you can suggest that the boys not be punished but somehow monitored for the next ten years or so. If any of them again exhibit any savage behavior, they may then be dealt with as the court sees fit. 

As either a closing or an opening argument, Golding's description of Ralph's thoughts at the end of the novel might serve you well:

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.

You can argue that enough has already been lost (innocence and friendship) and there should be no more. 

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What are some arguments supporting the idea that the boys should be punished for killing Simon and Piggy in Lord of the Flies?

One argument that supports the idea that the boys should be punished for the deaths of Simon and Piggy is that certain boys were fully aware that their actions and involvement in the deaths of the two characters. Every boy on the island participated in the murder of Simon, and Piggy was fully aware of his participation. Ralph and Samneric try to justify their actions and deny responsibility, but they are conscious of what they've done to Simon. Although the boys did not intentionally kill Simon, they are still guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter consists of intentionally killing someone, but the killing is accompanied by additional circumstances. The most common type of voluntary manslaughter involves extreme provocation that induces rage or terror and is sometimes described as a "heat of passion" killing. Simon's murder would fall under this category. The boys were engaged in a ceremonial "war dance" and were in an uncontrollable frenzy. Their skewed perception and group-mindstate resulted in extreme violence. Each child on the island is liable for Simon's murder.

Roger is solely responsible for Piggy's murder. Roger is guilty of first-degree murder because his actions were pre-meditated. Roger had surveyed Castle Rock and knew the location of certain rocks that could be hurled at intruders. He thought about how he would commit the crime, and when the opportunity presented itself, he took action. The other boys on the island did not participate in Piggy's murder and were not liable. Roger acted alone, and would be guilty of committing first-degree murder. Hypothetically speaking, every child is guilty of manslaughter, and Roger is guilty of first-degree murder. They are all minors, and their sentencing would be difficult to determine.

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