What dominates in human nature: good or evil? Is the human being a good creature with some dark shades or is he an evil creature capable of some goodness? Is the darkness that pervades the cosmos [85%, according to science] a symbol of the darkness within the human heart? William Golding would answer ‘yes’ to that.
His novel, Lord of the Flies, tells the story of some children aged 6 to 12 to show that evil is intrinsic to human nature. The children are marooned on an uninhabited island because of a plane crash. The plane was evacuating some schoolchildren during the ongoing war and it was shot down. Some children escape miraculously. What do they do on the island where there are no adults to supervise them?
Ralph emerges as a leader with civilised ideas on how to run a society. He tries to implement law and order among the children. Piggy, the intellectual, and Simon, the saint, are of great assistance in the process. But the human society does not belong to the philosopher-king, the intellectual and the saint. Far from it. It belongs to politicians. And they are ruthless.
Jack emerges as the counterforce to the civilisation that Ralph tries to cultivate on the island. Jack is governed by his instincts. He knows how to get power over others. He knows how to rule, by hook or by crook. He emerges as the ruler on the island. The goodness that Ralph and his friends try to cultivate doesn’t enchant the children. Jack’s savagery is the real fun. They kill wild boars and celebrate the killing in ritual dances. They erect the head of one of those killed pigs on a pole in order to appease the mysterious monster on the island. The monster is their own creation, in fact, partly by fear and partly by the need for a supernatural power.
When there is no wild boar to chase, Jack and his team use one of the children in place of the boar for their hunting game. Robert is almost killed in the first such game. Jack doesn’t hesitate to use the littlest children for the game. He uses these children as servants and toys. He doesn’t value human beings. He is a narcissist; he is the born ruler.
The rift between the groups – Jack’s and Ralph’s – becomes wider and more bitter. Jack pulls away more children from Ralph’s circle by using various tricks. The roasted pig’s meat is a bait, for example. Jack doesn’t hesitate to use force too; he ties up the twins like prisoners of war.
Yes, it becomes a virtual war between the two groups, between civilisation and savagery. Simon and Piggy are killed in the process. Ralph manages to escape by sheer luck; Jack and his followers had tried to burn him alive. Seeing the fire, a ship that was passing by stops. The boys are saved. Even the saviour, a British naval officer, is shocked to hear what Jack and his followers did on the island.
Evil prevails on the earth. Man is more evil than good. What we call civilisation is a thin veneer of sophistication we have put upon our intrinsic savagery for the sake of our survival as a species or at least as communities (of religion, nation, or whatever). “Scratch the civilisation and savagery bleeds out,” as British historian and author Felipe Fernandez-Armesto said in his scholarly book titled Civilizations.
There are good people too. But their goodness is too feeble in the midst of all the savagery. The intrinsic goodness of a Simon is destined to be martyred. The rational goodness of a Piggy will be destroyed albeit accidentally. The learnt goodness of Ralph may manage to escape by the skin of its teeth. Evil will continue to boss over – with the appearance of civilisation on the surface.
PS. This is part of a series being written for the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge. The previous parts are:
3. The Castle
Tomorrow: The Moon and Sixpence