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“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and in “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier

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According to Webster’s dictionary, free will is defined as, “the power of making free choices” (Webster 454). Humans, unlike any other creatures, have free will, or have the ability to make their own decisions. Inherent in the ability to choose, is the potential to make choices that perfect or even destroy the world. With good use of free will, the world can be beautiful and pleasing; however, with misuse of free will, evil takes root and has the power to destroy. It is a human venture to learn to properly use the gift of free will. In William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, a plane crashes and many of the children aboard flee to an island to survive. On this island, these children abuse their newfound freedom and lose sight of their need for rescue. Jack, the evil one on the island, tempts the other children and guides them away from Ralph, the one person who wants to focus on being saved.

This temptation, which is only one of the many temptations throughout the novel, turns out to be successful. The influence of their savage and unsupervised living conditions lures them to become barbaric and ultimately changes the characters. All of the major characters in Lord of the Flies have some kind of character flaw or weakness in their personality that leads to the destruction and chaos that develops in the book. All humans have free will, and humans, especially children such as those in “Lord of the Flies”, have the potential to misuse this independence in the face of temptation. In “Lord of the Flies”, William Golding brilliantly illustrates how character flaws and weaknesses lead to the misuse of free will and result in chaos, destruction, and extreme consequences.

The protagonist of “Lord of the Flies”, Ralph, is an essential character to the novel. Ralph, who is athletic and pleasant, is elected leader of the boys in the beginning of the story; he instills order and civilization through his leadership. Ralph has his sight set on being rescued and thinks of ways to improve their chances of being rescued while the other boys use their newfound freedom to begin playing and behaving irresponsibly. Ralph’s character resembles Jesus Christ; however, he is not the Christ-figure archetype. He is similar to Jesus in that he implements rules and structure on behavior for the good of the whole, so that everything is orderly and everyone is benefited. Despite Ralph being a fair leader, he is not perfect and has definite weaknesses in his personality, which lead him to make unwise choices, resulting in a semi-tragic ending.

Ralph’s character flaw shows when, after experiencing the thrill and exhilaration of violence, he too gives in to savagery. When Jack invited Ralph and Piggy to join their dance and killing of the beast, they gave in to temptation and joined, “Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in the demented but partly secure society” (Golding 140). This passage shows that Ralph, when faced with temptation, is not strong enough to resist. He found comfort in the society Jack had created: a brutal and uncivilized society. After experiencing this human savagery, Ralph found himself willing to take part in more barbaric behavior. During the boy’s dance about killing the beast, Simon comes out of the forest to share his good news when the boys, in their killing and evil state of mind, mistaken Simon for the beast and end up killing him. Ralph had the choice, or free will, to flee from the evil and violence or to join the assault; Ralph’s misuse of his free will resulted in the murder of an innocent boy, which then plagues his conscience.

Ralph, who begins as representing order, leadership, and civilization, submits to the evil power and inner-human savagery accepting the human preponderance for evil. With this knowledge, Ralph is burdened and weeps in the end because of it, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of a man’s heart” (Golding 187). Ralph is able to see that the children’s innocence is completely gone and he also observes how evil a man’s heart can become. Loss of innocence is one of the novel’s themes and is illustrated by the transformation from boys who are orderly and seek to be rescued but then become cruel, vicious hunters who lose sight of being rescued and care not about returning to civilization. As Ralph weeps, we see how this knowledge hurts him and how he is destroyed by the effects of human violence. Ralph had the choice to not submit to the temptations and evils that take their innocence, but he is weak; he misuses this free will, ultimately showing us, the reader, some of the dire consequences that can result from misuse of free will.

Ralph’s antithesis in the novel is Jack, the book’s antagonist. Jack is uncompromising as well as domineering and represents impulsive savagery and violence; he has a desire and craving for power, which is shown early in the book when he is infuriated that he loses the election of island leader to Ralph. However, Jack soon learns how to become the real leader over all of the boys. He begins by instinctively appealing to their base instincts, becoming more savage and barbaric; he hunts pigs and obsesses over this violence. He eventually learns to control the boys with their fear of the beast. Jack is the quintessential example of one who misuses free will; Jack chooses to use his knowledge and power to bring out the savagery in the little ones. Jack’s savage mindset becomes even more power-hungry and violent after he kills his first pig, “His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink” (Golding 70).

Jack is unable to think about anything else as his mind is perverted by his memories of violence. His savagery and hunting is directly connected to his need for being in authority; this killing is not in itself a misuse of free will, but Jack’s thoughts and mindset after the killing shows his free will is warped by the power he feels from the kill. Jack did not think of the killing as being able to provide food for the group, but more that he was able to win over and defeat another creature, forcing his will upon it. The simile, “taken away its life like a long satisfying drink” shows the reader how the hunting provides great satisfaction for Jack, which is why he freely chooses to continually outsmart more and more creatures, including the little ones. Killing the pigs is satisfying to Jack, but changing the boys from civilized to barbaric savages is even more rewarding to his ego. Jack repeatedly attempts to change and weaken others for his self-satisfaction; he breaks Piggy’s glasses wanting to feel superior; “He was a chief now in truth; and he made stabbing motions with his spear.

From his left hand dangled Piggy’s broken glasses” (Golding 155). This excerpt shows how barbaric Jack acts and how he needs to feel superior to others, in this case by breaking one of their prize and necessary possessions. Piggy’s glasses symbolize the power of science and intelligence, the very things inherent in a civilized society. The lenses are brilliantly used in the beginning of the novel to set the signal fires aflame but then they are stolen by Jack’s hunters, which represent them taking the power to make fire from Ralph’s group, leaving them weak; they metaphorically stole civilization from Ralph’s group. Jack’s actions of turning the boys from civilized to savage show a misuse of free will. Free will grants us enormous power that many people, like Jack, abuse. Jack’s sense of anarchy, need for power, instinctive violence, and misuse of free will dooms the boys to destruction as they all fall into temptation, and subsequently, savage behavior.

Piggy, a secondary character in “Lord of the Flies”, who is chubby, asthmatic, scientific and skeptical, plays an important role in the development of the novel. Piggy is the typical “sissy” but also very intellectual and has good ideas for helping the rest of the group survive on the island. It is clear that Piggy’s weaknesses contribute to his destruction in the end; Piggy misuses his free will and chooses paths which lead him to his destruction. He represents the scientific side of civilization, which is another central theme of the novel. Ralph, who represents the good and order of civilization, is completely contrasted with Jack, who represents human propensity for violence and savagery. Golding uses characters such as Roger, a cruel older boy who picks one the little ones, and Piggy to illustrate extreme examples of goodness and evil.

Piggy, like Ralph, wants order and civilization; however, he takes it to the next level as he has absolutely no savage or aggressive feelings and takes over the adult-role on the island, “Then, with the martyred expression of a parent who has to keep up with the senseless ebullience of the children, he picked up the conch, turned toward the forest, and began to pick his way over the tumbled scar” (Golding 38). This passage shows that Piggy feels he needs to be the adult-like leader of the group and try to maintain order with the conch. The conch has definite symbolic value in the novel. When Piggy and Ralph found it on the beach, they used it to summon the boys together. The conch also holds the power of speech. During meetings, the boys must hold the conch to gain permission to speak. With these situations the conch symbolizes organization and civilization, but the power of the conch weakens as the group’s behavior descends and it eventually demolishes when it is crushed by the same bolder that kills Piggy.

This situation shows the direct correlation between Piggy and the conch: they both represent civilization, and in the end, their demise illustrates how choosing badly led the boys into savagery. In spite of Piggy’s scientific skills, he possesses character weaknesses that lead him to make some wrong choices, ultimately bringing him to his demise. Piggy does not have any strength, physically nor socially. He is unable to stand up to the other boys when they mistreat him and he does not have the physical strength many of the other boys have. Piggy’s social problems lead others to dominate him, taunt him, and eventually murder him. If Piggy would have stood up for himself, he could have received the respect he needed in order to not be bullied.

In “The Chocolate War”, Robert Cormier develops distinct character traits that show the reader how people can misuse free will. Jerry Renault, the novel’s protagonist and main character, has important character traits that are established early in the book. We see Jerry as an athlete and a normal, hormonal teenager who tries to avoid confrontation by going along with the “gang.” He is given the assignment to refuse selling the chocolates during the school’s fundraising chocolate sale. This task is given to him by the Vigils, the school gang, which is comprised of power-hungry teenage bullies. The assignments which Archie, the gang leader, gives out are not a request, but an order; these assignments represent everything Archie represents: manipulation, fear, and power. Jerry begins the novel by stoically taking the pain and harassment from the Vigils, but then migrates to standing on principles as he continues to not sell chocolates. He properly uses his free will and stands up for a just cause.

This strength of character fills Jerry with pride, “‘My name is Jerry Renault and I’m not going to sell the chocolates,'” he said to the empty apartment. The word and his voice sounded strong and noble” (Cormier 177). This passage shows Jerry at his strongest point; he had just had a not-too-successful phone conversation with a girl he met at the bus stop, but he was feeling proud of the fact that he got up the nerve to actually call her, and he was also feeling pride over his fight against evil. Jerry is accepting and becoming proud of disturbing the universe; disturbing the universe is the idea behind Jerry’s locker poster and he realizes that he is actually disturbing the universe at his school by choosing to not sell chocolates. Disturbing the universe is one of the novel’s themes.

The universe is essentially the school environment created by the Vigils, and to interrupt the common action of following the Vigils orders, ultimately disturbs the universe that has been created. As Jerry chooses to interrupt the normal, evil ways, effectively using his free will for good, it begins to make some other students question the wrong behaviors of the Vigils and contemplate fighting against it. This is a terrific example of an excellent use of free will and the good consequences which result. This would have been ideal if the students would have fought against the evil power; however, the Vigils have instilled so much fear in everyone that they decide to go with the status quo–to not disturb the universe. Eventually, Jerry becomes the outcast of the school because he is opposing the current order. The school holds a boxing match and Jerry, at his weak point, agrees to partake in the match.

Jerry’s agreement to the boxing match starts his downfall from being strong in his fight against evil. He consents to partake in violence and this bad choice comes with bad consequences. Jerry ends up fighting Emile Janza, an evil character in The Chocolate War, and Emile knocks him out; this leads Jerry to his new way of thinking: it is better to do what you are expected to do, rather than to stick out and disturb the universe. Throughout the novel, Jerry is a character one can look up to; he does the right thing, fights against evil, and sticks with his convictions. However, in the end, Jerry basically gives up and decides that the fight against evil is not worth the price; it would just be easier for him to go along with those in power. At this point, Jerry does not seem like a role-model character because he uses his free choice to do nothing. Due to his lack of character as he loses his determination, he gives in and chooses to be normal, like the rest of the school. Jerry has misused his free will because he no longer fights against evil in hopes of making his school a better place.

Brother Leon, a rude, evil teacher at Trinity High School, is another main character that shows misuse of free will that eventually dooms him. Brother Leon is just as evil as Archie and taunts his students. He collaborates with The Vigil’s in order to completely take over the chocolate sales. Brother Leon needs to control the sales because he had embezzled some of the school’s money and needed to repay it. Archie and Brother Leon are almost exact replicas of each other because of their need to be feared and exert power through manipulation, “I’ll make it clear, Archie. If the sale goes down the drain, you and the Vigils go down the drain. Believe me…” (Cormier 165). This excerpt so perfectly shows how closely connected The Vigils, especially Archie, are with Brother Leon; they were working in evil for their own purposes. The connection starts when Brother Leon asks Archie to help him and Archie comes up with the assignment for Jerry to not sell chocolates.

These two situations contradict each other since Brother Leon wanted help selling chocolates but now Archie is having one of the students refuse to sell. However, this is Archie’s attempt to overrule both Jerry and Brother Leon. Everyday Brother Leon takes a roll call to see how his students are doing on selling chocolates; Jerry always fears this time since he is afraid that he will be severely punished for refusing. The roll call each day is Brother Leon’s attempt at breaking down Jerry since it makes him feel like an outcast being the one student not selling chocolates. Brother Leon’s evil nature causes him to make some bad choices. If Brother Leon would have not taken the school’s money in the first place, then he would not have been in the position of needing the chocolate sale money to repay the school.

He abused his free will and it left him with some harsh consequences. Furthermore, throughout the novel, Brother Leon continually misuses his free will and in the end, attends the boxing match. At the end of the novel, Brother Leon and Archie secure their powers together, uniting. To Brother Leon, he may have seemed “successful” in the end, in that Archie was able to knock Jerry back into conformity; however, Brother Leon is still in the wrong. He constantly hurts others and manipulates them; Leon abuses his freedom of choice and it will eventually come back to him. Brother Leon will ultimately reap what he sows; in other words: Brother Leon will get evil consequences for his evil actions.

Though all people misuse free will throughout their lives, there are still many times we kindly and rightly use our free will. In the Lord of the Flies and The Chocolate War, the main characters possessed character traits that led them to their good or bad choices, which at last directed them to good or bad consequences depending on the choices. We all have the opportunity to correctly use our free will and in turn have good consequences, such as pride or strength from doing the right thing just like Jerry. Ultimately, due to one’s character, they are led to correctly or wrongly use free will; there is a direct correlation to making good choices and from that having a positive outcome. On the other hand, misusing free will results in having bad consequences. Therefore, we should use good judgment and make right choices that will benefit with good consequences.

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