DavisH English 108 April 2016The Manifestation of Evil That Exists Within Human NatureWilliam Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, presents an accurate yet unnerving insight on human nature. Through Golding’s seemingly innocent story concerning a group of boys that become stranded on an island, he is able to portray man’s internal darkness by capturing the increasing selfishness of the boys as they lose all ties to civilization. Not only is this self-indulgence seen in fictional stories, such as Lord of the Flies, where the plot is dictated by the thoughts and opinions of the author, it is seen in reality as well. Real-life events such as the Milgram Experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and World War II, where the barbaric actions of the participants are influenced strongly by peers, fear, or an authoritative figure, support Golding’s philosophy. By nature, humans are intrinsically evil, and under the circumstantial pressure of various key factors, this malevolence emerges in the form of cruelty.
The group mentality that develops in the novel allows even the most logical of the boys to demonstrate a capacity for evil. The boys’ reenactment of the pig hunt captivates the boys to such an extent that they do not even recognize Simon when he emerges from the forest. The boys’ energy progresses into a frenzy and they attack and brutally murder one of their own, Simon.
Even Piggy and Ralph, the two most rational boys out of the group, “were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it governable” (Golding 152), supporting Golding’s theory that all men share the same internal illogicality and bestiality. During the murder, the group’s inhuman actions become insubstantial to Piggy and Ralph and they participate in these actions, showing that the social pressures to fit in outweigh the moral consequences of murder. Through this consonance, the boys are stripped of all forms of individuality and are transformed into faceless bloodthirsty animals with the ability to kill without feeling the need to brood over the repercussions. This communal kill of Simon ensures a shared culpability in which the murder cannot be blamed on one person and as a result, all the boys are forced to endure the heavy burden of guilt that rests upon them. In some sense, the boys’ common participation becomes a motivating factor in Simon’s murder and allows the boys to break loose from the bounds of civilization. Therefore, the boy’s collective responsibility as well as the stress of social conformation allows for and motivates Simon’s animalistic murder (Rosenfield 93-101).This type of acculturation is not only seen in fiction literature, but also in real-life scenarios like the Stanford Prison Experiment, where the prison guards enforced rules they normally would not be comfortable with simply because all the other guards were committing the same atrocities.
In this experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo, male volunteers were divided into two groups and placed in the Psychology basement of Stanford University in a prison-like environment. One group was prompted to act as prisoners, and the other as guards. Due to the resulting barbarity of the experiment, it was concluded eight days early. The experiment calls human nature into question due to the quickly increasing brutality the guards demonstrated in a very short time span (“The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study on the Psychology of Imprisonment”).
Although some of the guards were not sadistic at first, once they began to see the cruelty demonstrated by their fellow guards, they began to feel a pressure to act in the same manner. When discussing the findings of the experiment, Zimbardo explains, “Guard aggression … was emitted simply as a ‘natural’ consequence of being in the uniform of a ‘guard’ and asserting the power inherent in that role”. Therefore, once the guards saw what was accepted by their own society, they thoughtlessly assimilated to the same conduct. This social conformation is similar to Lord of the Flies, where at the beginning of the novel, Ralph and Piggy embrace voting and democracy and the rest of the boys follow suit. However, Jack and Roger lean towards evil and dictatorship, the other boys join them and they too begin to find it acceptable.
Once society sets the standards for behavior, it is human nature to assimilate to that same conduct, no matter the gruelling reality of the deportment (“On the SPE”).Not only are people strongly influenced to carry out actions due to the pressure of others, it is shown that fear also plays a vital role in man’s inhumane actions. In the novel, Jack is able to rise to power by utilizing the boys’ fear of the beast as a means to control them. As the overall belief in the beast grows, democracy is subsequently depleted and the island civilization falls under the tyranny of Jack, who symbolizes the dark side of human nature.
In chapter eight, Jack, Roger, and Ralph return to the group after searching for the beast and call a meeting. During this meeting, Jack points out Ralph’s pusillanimity during the hunt because he wants them to see that he would be the superior choice for their chief. While discussing Ralph’s incompetence, Jack explains, “‘he isn’t a proper chief… he’s a coward himself’”(Golding 126).
Jack desperately tries to sway the group by pointing out Ralph’s imperfections and inability to hunt. While Ralph offers civility, order and the possibility of rescue, Jack persuades the group by offering meat and protection from the beast. This method is successful and the majority of the boys join Jack after the meeting concludes. Over the course of the novel, Jack is able to convince the boys of the beast’s existence. He then establishes himself as a shield that can protect the boys from the beast, and by doing so, he convinces the boys to follow him blindly.
By capitalizing on the island civilization’s fear of the unknown, the beast, Jack assumes power with ease by making himself appear stronger and braver than Jack, hence becoming the better option for a leader in the eyes of immature, unnerved, and inexperienced boys. The boys become Jack’s puppets, and subsequently blindly follow and accept him without questioning his true intent. This compliance that is caused by the society’s apprehension leads to the infliction of misery onto others (Bufkin 40-57).