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The Power of Evil: Lord of the Flies

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Evil: A noun meaning profound immortality, wickedness and depravity. It’s just a simple four letter word, full of darkness. There is a little bit of evil in everyone, varying in degree and severity, but it’s up to you whether you let it show or not. Everyone has a simple understanding of what evil is, but only through experience can one get a true understanding. In Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, evil seems extrinsic to the boys, being caused by the situation they are thrown into and the island they are stranded on, but these boys slowly begin to realize the intrinsic nature of evil within them.

The common theme of evil is very evident throughout this entire book, but the source of the evil gradually seems to shift from the island to the boys themselves. When the boys first arrive they are nothing but British School boys who have all grown up in the same civil environment. They clearly know what is right and what is wrong; because there were rules that were enforced back home. The boys have the power to make their own decisions, but what damage could a group of young school buys really do? As the time spent on the island increases the extrinsic effect of the island starts to seem like the cause of the increase in evil demonstrated by the boys. “They got his arms and legs. Ralph carried away by a sudden think excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it” (Golding 101). Ralph originally seems like a non violent, nice guy, but he can show the evil he holds within. He gets so caught up in the moment and his surroundings that he begins to perform actions he never thought he would. He pretends to hurt another human being and seems to enjoy it. “The potential for evil is an inherent quality in all humans that is unleashed in the absence of the rules and customs of civilization” (Frank). Evil is in everyone, even Ralph, piggy, and the littleuns. The evil in Jack is always apparent. His wickedness is fueled by his need for power and control, but it truly starts to come through given the circumstances they are living with.

As the plot progresses the reader slowly gets more and more hints that this evil is actually coming from within the boys. “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could kill! You knew didn’t you? I’m a part of you?” (Golding 128). The Lord of the Flies addresses Simon and explains how there isn’t a living, killable, physical beast, but a little piece of this ‘beast’ inside each of them. “The insidious “Lord of the Flies” seems to be a satanic presence provoking evil from outside the individual. But the “Lord of the Flies” speaks quite plainly to Simon, informing him, “I’m part of you.” Golding’s novel suggests that the first step in the battle against evil is a war waged against some of the most powerful forces within the human soul itself” (Gussin). The boys must realize the true source of this evil. Simon’s interaction with the Lord of the Flies is truly when evil becomes a main theme of the story. Shortly after Simon has this realization he is murdered by his so-called “friends”. They are so consumed by their surroundings and the energy in the moment that they attack and kill a fellow companion. “Evil, the beast, exists within men, and it is kept within by the authoritative restraints of laws, rules, and knowledge. This internal beast is the beast that cannot be hunted and killed; and this internal beast is the ‘reason why it’s no go’ and ‘things are what they are’ (Bufkin). While all the boys are crying and worrying about the beastie, as they call it, they should really be scared of themselves. They cause all the chaos and cruelty and put the blame on other things.

Finally all hell breaks loose: two deaths, torture, setting fire to the entire island, and more. There has been such an extreme shift in behavior from these boys as civilization and rules fade away and the evil pushes through. A perfect example is Roger. “Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it as Henry –threw to miss” (Golding 51). We see here the bit of evil he has by wanting to throw the rock at the other boy, Henry, but the restraint he also still possesses due to his life full of rules and civilization. Later on we see the change; “Someone was throwing stones; Roger was dropping them” (Golding 162). Now that he has been on this island so long, away from the ways of society, he let’s his inner desires through. He now aims to hit, and kill. He causes the death of an innocent character, Piggy, by dropping the stone right on him.

Every single one of the boys has an inner characteristic of evil. Throughout the story, some let that come through more than others, and some learn more about their true self than any young boy needs to. Evil is shown as intrinsic and hard to overcome. The beast, which is originally blamed as the source of evil, is soon revealed as nonexistent. This leads to a new search for the source, which is found within. Every day one has to make choices. We know which ones are right and which ones are right, but must use our common sense and logic to overcome the evil inside of us and make the right decision. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary for avoiding the chaos these boys had to endure.

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