Lord of the Flies: How the Author Uses the Philosophy Existentialism in the Novel
When we say that a man is responsible for himself, we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men," are the wise words of the renowned philosopher and existentialist, Jean Paul Satre. Throughout the book, the boys on the island gradually lose their personal identities, therefore relying on others to make their decisions rather than being able to think for themselves. Morals, behavior, and physical appearance are all factors of life affected by the lack of individuality. Within The Lord of the Flies, a book written by William Golding, there are various examples that prove how much one's identity reflects on life. The lack of individuality throughout the story affected the morals of the children. H.G. Wells once stated that "in politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upwards on the table."
We shall now shortly analyze the novel. The will of being rescued will unite all the children with a same purpose. They pursue a determinate objective. For this purpose, a first rudimentary political and social order is established. We would like to trace a parallelism between the situation of the kids when their plane crashed and the so called Natural Man conceived by Rousseau. The Natural Man was an idealized savage who lived in harmony with his instincts and enjoyed communion with nature. Once the social order appeared, the corruption of his condition begun, and the consequences of a degraded order derived into a different kind of savagery: social savagery, a kind of paradoxical parable. The plot in the novel describes with special care how the democracy of the shell generated enough envy and conflicts to finally fracture their attempt to organize themselves under a rational thought. An elementary hierarchy was established at the same time with a first order. Apart from that those who reincarnate some kind of power that will be later outlined, the mass is curiously seen as a bunch of hypocrites. Only a few worked hard when constructing the shelter; the majority did not make great efforts and hid in the anonymous existence of plurality. Based on people whose main interests are not as solidary as we would like to think, social order is then seriously threatened. The fire has a crucial importance as it represents the common will of abandoning the island. In fact, the knot of the novel starts when Jack is ashamed by Ralph, for being the guilty of its extinction in the very moment a boat was sailing at a long distance. Jack's success on hunting the pig is endarkened by his carelessness: the seed of rivalry and hate between the two characters is going to change the events into a tragedy. The fear which the beast provoked in them is also a factor which we must point out. Imagination and myth take place in the illusory description of the creature which Sam and Eric invent. This has something to do with the hieratism of some religions whose main idea is the existence of a terrible supernatural justice that won't have mercy on mankind: the idea of God is conceived -this idea is stronger in some religions than in others- as an implacable entity whose source of power is terror. Anyway , those beliefs have at least a reward: the comprehension of the world and of the universe. For some civilizations it could be a worthwhile compensation, but we should not forget the coercive power that a premeditate use of terror (maybe even its creation) has within the high spheres of power. We can find an example on Jack's use of fear to achieve his purposes. therefore, the group's fear towards an unknown beast will end up driving all the group into Jack's fascist hands: in other words, the the primary ideas and events which united the group, are finally disintegrated. Jack will not only use fear but also leadership to recover his pride and his prestige within the group. This pride grows when the tribe is formed. So, to reinforce his pride Jack hides his own image behind a mask; a mask which has something to do with the fascist imaginery, like the paint of the faces. The paint institutionalizes the group and makes personal identity disappear. In all those societies marked by dictatorial there is an uniformity in how people think, dress and react towards certain stimuli; and the same thing happens with the tribe itself.
William Golding belonged to the generation which had its roots in the post war period, which is a period of disillusionment and disenchantment. The atomic bomb explosion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki decided the end of the war but it gave rise to another war, a war within the mind of people like William Golding. The vileness and the gruesomeness that went on in totalitarian state were unbearable for him. He was horrified to find that what was gruesome was actually done very skilfully and coldly by the educated men, men who have a rich tradition and civilization behind them. “Man’s true nature was revealed before him and out of this grew his conviction that man was a fallen being gripped by ‘original sin’” (Iyer 2006 : Preface). It appeared as if the war revealed the true nature of man. Golding was opposed to the behaviorist assumption that human problems are related to the environment. This war has convinced him that the ills of human beings lie in the ‘Will’ of man. He was disturbed to realise that man is unable to understand and control this “will” which ultimately results in disaster for the entire humanity (Bhattacharjee, 2011). Therefore, Golding concentrates on the disastrous events of war which leads to disintegration of human entity and disruption of the moral fabric of life. According to him, humanity was suffering from a terrible disease and through his writings, he was able to examine and analyse the problems which would help him to bring awareness in the minds of the people and help in making this universe a paradise, which man seems to have lost.
Thus, William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies" not only provides a profound insight into human nature but also does so in a way that is remarkable for its use of shock and horror. Golding presents aspects of human nature as themes in the book. It alerts us to our potential to descend from order to chaos, good to evil, civilization to savagery. They are explored through how innate evil can be brought out in certain situations, the dangers in not addressing our own fears and the battle between civilization and anarchy. Most importantly, Golding achieved the above using metaphorical and didactic writing techniques that unquestionably shocked his readers - and still shocks them today. "Lord of the Flies" is essentially an allegory.
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Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. London: Faber and Faber, 1954. Print
Iyer, N. Ramamoorthy. Moral Vision of William Golding. Delhi: Adhyayan Publishers & Distributers. 2006. Print.
Kulkarni, Indu. The Novels of William Golding. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. 2003. Print.