The relationship between art and reality is complex. Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a novel that explores many complex themes about human nature and society. The novel’s allegorical style allows for many interpretations with respect to the construction of a new civilization. Its plot allows for a treatise on what would hypothetically occur if teenagers were left to their own devices, without parents or pre-ordained law enforcement to serve as precedent. Through the analysis of the symbols that the story presents, different conclusions can be reached, including opposing ones. Conservatism is presented as being an ideal that could assure equilibrium in interpersonal relations; nevertheless, it is inapplicable because human nature tends towards change and the destruction of social norms.
The novel Lord of the Flies, by Nobel Laureate William Golding, explores the events that could possibly happen after a group of schoolboys are left stranded on an island. As such, it serves as an artistic laboratory of human nature. One of the first observations that are made by the children is: “There are no parents” (Golding 7). This may be interpreted to mean that the social norms and institutions that they lived under in Britain are no longer relevant. It is important to note that they have already been presented with a set of rules and regulations, which some, especially Ralph, try to emulate at the beginning. Nevertheless, the respect for these rules decreases until Jack Merridew’s authoritarian regime ends up causing chaos, including the loss of lives.
Golding theorizes that the evil, individual nature within each person can only be countered by reason, and that it is the loss of this cognitive component that results in the degradation of society, not its social institutions and norms. Piggy’s glasses serve as a symbol for reason throughout the novel: one can trace the downfall of their makeshift civilization through his loss of sight, his cracked lens and the glasses being stolen. Ralph at the end “wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart” (Golding 199); after trying as hard as he could to negate this aspect of human lives and live ideally, the experience he suffered on the island makes him realize that there is evil within. Piggy, the only child with glasses, serves as the voice of reason throughout the book, and this accessory becomes more denigrated through the story, a parallel of the underestimation of reason and the advancement of emotional-based responses. Thus, reason, in the form of Piggy’s glasses, served as a barricade from the evil, individualistic and emotional-based core that everyone has inside.
Therefore, while there is a component of social degradation due to the fact that social institutions and norms were not being upheld, it is more of a struggle of reason against emotion that a historical one. Conservatism believes in the preservation of the establishment that has allowed a society to flourish, as this will guarantee social wellness. Ralph and Piggy, the idealist and the rationalist, respectively, are the characters that most look to upkeep these organizations that they had learnt in Britain. However, the more rational and carnal Jack leads to the systematic destruction of these institutions. The fact that he achieves tyrannical rule of the community, which leads to the destruction of almost the entire island, shows that Golding is inclined to think that the evil inside is prominent over social norms, reason and democracy in society. This message is doubled and foreshadowed by the reason that the children are traveling in the first place: they are escaping from nuclear war, and the officer at the end sees “the trim cruiser in the distance” (Golding 200). Therefore, not only is evil prone to triumph in a society formed by adults; it is in human nature for this component to win over evil, as children also end up declaring war when left to their own devices.
In conclusion, Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a complex novel about human nature, where reason can be seen defeated by the emotional-driven evil that lives inside people. Like adults, when children are left to form a community, this may also end up in a war. Not only are social norms and regulation not enough to combat this: they are not the greatest weapon; reason is what counters this madness most effectively, but it is still insufficient. Thus, while the maintenance of social institutions is an important part of society, it is a failed model, as it disavows the dark aspects of human nature.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies: A Novel. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.