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‘Lord of The Flies’ By William Golding: The evil of human nature

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Jack, as a “former chorister” and “head boy” (22) at his school arrived on the island eager to make rules and punish those who broke them, although, he constantly broke the rules himself when he felt it was needed to further his own interests. The freedom Jack had on the island allowed the dark side of his character to be revealed from under his outer shell of a civilized schoolboy. Jack represents the evil side of human nature.

Jack’s strong desire to be leader was best illustrated in his first appearance in the book. It was most significant that when the idea of having a vote for “Chief” was mentioned, Jack took on a leadership role on the basis that he was “chapter chorister”, could “sing C sharp” and was “head boy” (22). Ralph immediately recognized that Jack had “the voice of one who knew his own mind”(21). Jack led the choir with much discipline and a militaristic attitude, which shows that he was a dictatorial leader. As Jack strove to establish his leadership, he took on the title of “Chief.” By the time of Simon’s death, Jack had clearly gone power-mad: ” Power lay in the brown swell of his forearm: authority sat on his shoulder”(150). This is illustrated when Jack sneeringly said that the conch didn’t count at his end of the island. Also when Jack sat on the log “painted and garlanded . . . like an idol”(149) and around him were arranged piles of food and drinks as if they were offerings to him. In addition, Jack’s tribe addressed and acknowledged him as “Chief” instead of “Jack”, indicating subservience to a primitive tribal leadership. It is said that while power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Jack’s behavior is a clear confirmation of this.

It is Jack, not Ralph, who is the natural leader on the island. Unlike Ralph, Jack is a master of manipulation and public image. Everything he does, seems to increase his power over the boys. He makes use of uniforms, first the choir cloaks and then the hunter paint, to give the boys a sense of identity and belonging. Not only this, but when Jack said: “If you want to join my tribe come and see us. Perhaps I’ll let you join. Perhaps not”(140) this clearly illustrates that his talent in orally persuading others was irresistible. By speaking in this manner Jack made joining his tribe seem like a privilege and, as a result, made joining even more appealing to the other boys. He was “safe from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of his paint.” (140) Golding is telling us that most individuals, and more particularly leaders, have two “faces.” One, being their inner self, and the other being that which is their public image.

When Jack first arrived on the island, he was a disciplined, well-behaved schoolboy, who would not break any rules. However, since there were no “grownups” on the island, there was no one there to enforce the rules and punish those who broke them. Jack soon realized that rules meant nothing on the island. All previous social conditioning appropriate in the “real world” soon disappeared from Jack’s character. This was the reason why he rarely respected the power of the conch, on occasions telling those who held the conch to “shut up” (21). Yet, on the other hand, he used the conch when it was to his advantage, such as when he called the assembly to impeach Ralph.

Jack intended to undermine the importance of the conch, as a symbol of leadership, while at the same time drawing the whole focus of the boys to the significance of his hunts as being essential for the survival of the entire group. However, rules by themselves have no meaning, unless they are enforced. This change in Jack’s character and behavior in the absences of “rule enforcers” indicates that we, humans, need rules to guide and help prevent us from doing evil. However, Golding clearly illustrates that rules without their enforcement are worthless.

Jack represents the evil side of human nature. Desire for power and selfishness are aspects of the innate evil in human nature. Since human nature has a disposition towards evil, we, humans, need to live by rules in order to make us act in a peaceful and social manner towards one another. Such rules are designed to help us follow morally correct principles. They are also necessary for the benefit of the majority, and should be designed so as to curb the impulses of individuals to satisfy their immediate desires, which may run counter to the well being of the group. The root of the chaos and disorder on the island was the inability of the leader, Ralph, to enforce the rules he had made.

“Lord of the Flies” confirms that, in the opinion of the author, human nature is fundamentally evil and the rule of law, and its enforcement, is absolutely essential in order to create a peaceful and civilized society.

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