An Analysis of the Human Condition
Literature serves many purposes. For one, it can be used to entertain oneself. Additionally, it can be used to educate others on a vast variety of subjects. However, many people don’t acknowledge the third purpose of literature; to show us the two sides of human nature. One author in particular does a remarkable job of showing us this: William Golding. Through the skillful description of his central characters, Golding holds a mirror to the human condition so as to shed light on the magnificence and brutality of humanity.
To start off, Golding shows us the admirable side of humanity by attaching it to the character named Piggy. Throughout the novel Piggy represents the calm, positive, and civil aspects of humanity. When the boys on the island have lost all hope for rescue and show no signs of civilization, Piggy asks them, “What is better – to be a pack of painted savages like you, or to be sensible like Ralph is?” (Golding 199). This shows us Piggy’s bond with civilization and how he perseveres even when times are tough. Furthermore, Piggy always tries to see the positive in everything and tries to be as innovative as possible. When fear of the Beast forces the boys to abandon the fire on the mountain, Piggy suggests, “What’s wrong with a fire down here? A fire could be built on them rocks. On the sand, even. We’d make smoke just the same” (Golding 142). Here it is shown how humans can always find a way to be positive thinkers. Additionally, Piggy is perhaps the most loveable character in the novel. After the boys had been rescued, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy” (Golding 223). Even though Ralph constantly picked on Piggy, he mourns his death. All in all, Piggy is the perfect example of the brilliance in humans.
Golding conveys the despicable side of humanity through the character named Jack. At first, Jack behave like a normal child, just like everyone else on the island, but as the story advances, Jack starts to show the savage instinct of humans. Keeping in mind that most of the children on the island are 6-12 years old, Jack and his tribe create a chant, “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood” (Golding 75). It is shown here that all humans have an ignoble side, no matter the age. Moreover, Jack shows readers the hate that some humans can have for one another. Towards the end of the novel, Jack vows to kill Ralph after the humiliation he put him through. Jack had the choice to show mercy on Ralph, but he didn’t because of the amount of hatred he had for him. Golding has done a fantastic job of using Jack to represent the brutality of humanity in Lord of the Flies.
At last there is the protagonist, Ralph. Throughout the novel, Ralph alternates between the admirable and ignoble sides of humanity. He is viewed as a balance between the two sides. He shows us the admirable part of human nature when he stands up for Piggy. After Jack breaks one of the lenses of Piggy’s glasses, Ralph tells Jacks that, “That was a dirty trick” (Golding 78). Despite the fact Ralph constantly picks on Piggy, he shows sympathy for him and defends him. Ralph also shows readers a few signs of the brutality within humans. When Ralph is hunting with Jack’s hunters, he begins to chant their dreary chant. Here it shows how strong the savage instinct in humans can be. Nonetheless, Ralph shows us a perfect balance between the good and bad of human nature.
It is amazing how Golding can use precise description of his primary characters to show readers the magnificence and brutality of humanity. By conveying the admirable side of humanity through Piggy, the despicable side through Jack, and a balance of both through Ralph, Golding shows readers the understanding he has on such a complex topic. Here, in Lord of the Flies, is it shown that no matter the amount of civilization that is used to cover up the savage instinct, humanity, no matter the age, will always have a dark and brutal aspect within it.