Properties of Human Mind: Malleable
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Con-artists, grifters, and two-faced people change their personality at will to get what they want; however, there are many external influences in this world that cause people to change their true behavior without ever realizing it. In the book Lord Of the Flies, by William Golding, the stranded children begin to demonstrate the manipulative mindset of a human being that alter their behavior. In the story, a group of young boys, ages varying from 5-12 years, embark on an adventure when they get marooned on an island. The innocence of the children rapidly change as they degenerate to their primal instincts of survival which leads to fights, loss of morality and even homicide. William Golding portray this allegory to show the innate dark and evil spirit of humanity, but it also exemplifies many ways on how the human mind can be swayed by external influences. William Golding manifest the docility of human demeanor through the illustrations of mob mentality and leaderships portrayed by the children to show the naive, capricious identity of mankind. In any state of mob mentality, or group thinking, people are prone to forfeit their own morals or rationality to some angle of degree.
Whether it be a big concert that leads people to jump and scream by the atmospheric excitement, or a mass riot that cause people to act violently forfeiting any civil regards. Either direction, good or bad, human’s high social behavior conducts a mob mentality that causes the individual to bend their own foundations of morals and behavior. In Lord of the Flies the boys demonstrated this mob mentality when they reenacted their hunting. At first it was all fun and games, but as they got more and more stimulated by each other’s excitement, things started to get more recalcitrant. Robert was the hunted pig during this theatrical display; but unfortunately, he became a real victim by group’s mental excitement. Golding describes how they behave, “They got his arms and legs. Ralph, carried away by a sudden thick excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it … All at once, Robert was screaming and struggling with the strength of frenzy” (Golding 114). Fueled by the group’s post-adrenaline excitement, this group turned towards violence.
A social psychological theory called The Contagion Theory states that: “Crowds exert a hypnotic influence on their members that results in irrational and emotionally charged behavior often referred to as crowd frenzy” (James 4). In this case, the boys who were stimulated by the violence in their hunting exerted a hypnotic influence on all their members that led them to do even more violence than just fun and games. Subsequently, Ralph representing the thriving character to balance good and evil was easily tranced to do evil in acts of violence by the forces of mob mentality that unknowingly changes the behavior of its victim. Another mob mentality factor that causes the behavioral change of an individual is the dissipation of responsibility. Tamara Avant, a director of Psychology at South University, can concur; “When people are part of a group, they often experience deindividuation, or a loss of self-awareness. When people deindividuate, they are less likely to follow normal restraints and inhibitions and more likely to lose their sense of individual identity” (Donley 3). This shows how someone’s manner of conducting themselves alter by the lack of responsibility that constrain their immediate desires.
Particularly in violent mobbings, one would feel more compelled to do violence because it is an accepted behavior of the group just like fist pumping during a concert or clapping during a performance. Nonetheless, mob mentality has influenced the person’s behavior. But to a grander scale, violent behavioral change through mob mentality can be more devastating than one might think. On January 27, 2013, a mass riot broke out in Cairo, Egypt because of a soccer game on which their favored team lost. As a result, violence, looting, lighting streets on fire became an accepted behavior amongst the angered crowd. 30 people were reportedly killed and over 300 people were injured during this chaos (KirkPatrick). This is just another example of how behavioral change can turn for the worst when the majority is compelled to do brutality and that the individual responsibility that constrain their desire is lost by the dissipation of the group. William Golding also demonstrate this loss of responsibility in a mob mentality when the boys killed simon. It was a storming night when Ralph and Piggy went to visit Jack’s tribe. As the storm began to brew, Jack’s tribe, followed by Ralph and Piggy, merged together to do chants and dancing by the hypnotic influence of being part of a group.
Meanwhile, Simon discovers the beast, that they feared, as a mere misperception of a parachute. When Simon went to tell the group that the beast was only a dead parachute man, they mistook him as the beast and murdered him. Such crime holds great consequence and responsibility for the action, but due to the disintegration of responsibility caused by the mob mentality, none of the part-takers feel any true guilt and individual responsibility for the death of Simon. Even Piggy and Ralph, characters who has still resisted Jack’s savage clan, push that responsibility as disbelief. Piggy states, “That’s right. We was on the outside. We never done nothing. we never seen nothing” (Golding 158). William Golding clearly demonstrates how the diffusion of responsibility in a group causes each individual to take riskier actions and show different behaviors in Lord of the Flies; but also, likewise can be said on humanity as a whole. Throughout human history, leaders rose and pushed people towards many goals forming a nation with their own set of rules of civil conduct; leaders influence groups in such a way that it changes the behavior of those who follow.
In Lord of the Flies, Jack and Ralph play a huge power struggle trying to gain power over the group. Since Ralph gathered everyone by blowing a conch, Ralph was enthroned as the leader. The conch symbolizes democracy, civilization and order which govern the boys into assemblies and retain the children’s behaviors. On the contrary however, Jack expresses violence, tyranny and primal instincts that later on infect onto the rest of the boys. When Jack broke off from the group, majority of boys joined Jack forming a new demented clan. All sense of rationally and civilization was obscured, and Piggy, who represents reasoning throughout the story, was killed followed by the destruction of the conch. Robert a delirious follower of Jack pushes a rock to kill piggy: “The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist” (Golding 181).
Jack’s psychotic rule over the boys demented the boys where one would never recognize as their true behavior. This fictional story unequivocally alludes to many historical figures that changed nationwide behavior even to the point of death in a battle field. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are all disturbing leaders that effectively lead millions to think that murdering of Jews, beheading women and children and letting millions starve to death was justifiable, just like how Jack led the boys to kill their own once entrusted leader. Just like how the behavior of one’s entity changes by Jack’s regime, human behavior is changed by the leader.
In essence, William Golding’s book, Lord of the Flies, has many examples on which can be said on humanity. The boys demonstrate many social parallel trends that make a person who they are and how it can be rapidly changed. Generically speaking, mob mentality are a part of society that is used for consumerism, rallies, and the formation of cliques, riots and nations. Anyone who joins into a group risks their identity, principles, and their subconsciousness by the lack of responsibility. In this case, the civilized English schoolboys lost their teachings, principles, and manner on which they turned into savages by many influences that surrounded them. In like manner, humans who are refined can be turned into savages at any group situations when the group agrees to be violent; merely through peer pressure and the diffusion of consequences. By the same token, leaders that rise influence heavily on the followers like some of the historical figures like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini that led nations to do all kinds of notorious deeds. If those millions that followed such horrid leaders was born to do evil then society wouldn’t exist; rather, it was simply the con that makes a person change.
Donley, Megan. “Examining the Mob Mentality.” Examining the Mob Mentality. SouthSource, Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
Golding, William. The Lord of the Flies. New York: Berkley Group, 1954. Print. James, Wendy. “The Psychology of Mob Mentality and Violence.” Dr Wendy James PhD. Life Consultants, 18 July 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
KirkPatrick, David D. “A City in Egypt Erupts in Chaos Over Sentences.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.