Criminal to the Core Everyone has heard the expression ‘stranger danger’ since elementary school. But what if this simple phrase hides an alternate, deeper message? William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, has used his book to bring up the controversial idea that humans are evil at the root of their beings. The idea of inherent malevolent nature is even present throughout world history. Perhaps the most famous example would be the villainy of the Nazis during the Holocaust, well expressed through the novel Night by Elie Wiesel. Even today, many people have pondered this concept.
In the excerpt of philosopher William Glasser’s Choice Theory, Glasser discusses what motivates a human to make his choices, whether good or evil. Through the progression of Lord of the Flies, Night, and Choice Theory, there is a multitude of irrefutable evidence that human beings are intrinsically wicked, due to their nonchalant, almost sadistic reaction to death and to their natural selfishness that is all too primitive. When it comes to death and humans, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is instrumental in presenting what death does to humans and how humans react to it.
A human being’s savage nature and primal instincts are effectively portrayed through the development of Jack, the leader in a group of hunters. Young Jack Merridew, who seems to be nothing but a naive and obnoxious chorister at first glance, becomes one of the most malicious and turbulent boys on the island. Jack’s barbarous side is exceptionally highlighted when the hunters go out to make one of their first kills in order to get meat for the rest of the boys. This simple killing of a pig drove once virtuous Jack to savage and insane limits, through the exhilaration, satisfaction, and pure bloodlust he gained from cutting a pig’s throat.
This psychotic behavior is obvious when Jack leads the hunters down the mountain after the hunt was over, chanting “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood”” (Golding 69). Any sane being would have just killed the pig and gone on; however, that was not the case with these boys. Through the usage of parallelism to put individual emphasis on “kill” and “cut”, Golding shows the dark bliss the boys felt in going through with each morbid stage of killing the pig. The term “spill” has a celebratory feel to it, which further adds to the vicious satisfaction the boys had gotten from ghastly taking this pig’s life.
In addition to the wicked words in the chant, Golding uses this situation to highlight the boys’ thirst for evil, the addictive nature of murder, and how it affects them. Moreover, the boys are mentioned to have been wearing face paint when hunting. The mask of face paint each boy wore while killing the pig symbolizes the gradual acceptance of his nefarious nature. This behavior is present throughout the book whenever the hunters go to get meat, and gets increasingly worse, eventually leading to multiple deaths among the rest of the boys.
Since Golding’s fictional story looks at evil and death in almost an exaggerated manner, the reader may not take it as seriously. However, Night by Elie Wiesel is an all-too-real glimpse into the lives of Jewish captives in the time of the Holocaust. It is well known these prisoners were treated in inhumane conditions with extreme disrespect. Everyone was stripped of their honor and dignity, and there was no mercy. Naturally, due to these conditions, Jews started dying off one by one. At first, the rest of the captives mourned every death. However, as time went on, these deaths became a daily occurrence and they started to think less of them.
Wiesel himself, who had witnessed many deaths, was unfazed, when his own father died. There was nothing done in his father’s memory, but what is most surprising is that Wiesel showed no emotion to this horrendous death. In fact, he “could have searched the recesses of [his] feeble conscience… [and] have found something like: ‘Free at last! ” (Wiesel 112). The term “feeble” to describe Wiesel’s conscience may have been used to show that his walls of what society had taught him, all logic and order, were broken down, and he was in his weakest state of being, at the purest form of his soul.
Additionally, the fact that he referred to this expression of evil being in the “recesses” of his conscience exemplifies that this turbulent nature was, quite literally, in the deepest, darkest corner of his body and mind. The concept that some part of Wiesel thought of this death as being something to “free” him from the burden of having to take care of his father, blatantly proves that at the crux of his being, even someone as religious and seemingly good natured as Elie Wiesel, can let their inner dark conscience take over.
Consequently, these two situations, while having different settings, obviously proves death ineffectual to a person’s mind, and one may even take sadistic pleasure in it. A majority of humanity being unfazed by death, though a subtle form of evil, does not compare at all to the mass horror that is selfishness and greed. In Night, for instance, the Jews were at a train station in Aden. Onlookers, who had never seen captives before, had thrown bread into the wagon full of prisoners, watching the spectacle of starving men fighting for food.
However, now, these prisoners were no longer men, but rather “Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes. An extraordinary vitality possessed them, sharpening their teeth and nails” (Wiesel 101). The term “unleashed” refers not to an evil taking over the prisoners, as it may seem at first, but rather to evil coming out from within the captives. This, along with the phrase “beasts of prey” shows that this savagery was uncontrolled and almost a natural instinct. Wiesel’s use of a metaphor was effective in portraying this animal-like behavior, and catches the reader’s attention, which prepares him for the later events.
Just within a couple of moments, the brawl is at its peak and a son grotesquely murders his own father for a few crumbs of bread. This situation shows the vile nature of humans from more than one perspective. Not only were the actions of the prisoners fighting for a ration of bread considered evil, but the onlookers who had first thrown this bread and caused this squabble are just as atrocious for simply observing the results of their acts, rather than stop the captives.
If one were to relate this selfish nature back to today’s world, he would have to look no further than William Glasser’s theory on choice, which is that humans are motivated to constantly satisfy the five basic needs: to survive, belong, gain power, be free, and to have fun. Glasser’s main claim throughout his entire theory is that outside events have little impact on what one decides to do, and “what drives [one’s] behavior are internally developed notions of what is most important and satisfying to [him]” (Glasser).
Using the term “internally” to describe these notions and morals show that outside events barely affects the choices that one makes, and that it is always one’s own internal experience that shape the morals that the final decision is based off of. A human being’s own selfish needs drive him to make the choices he does, and this selfishness proves maleficent nature, from the Holocaust to a fictional novel to even people in the world today. To some, it may seem plausible that humans are inherently good, even in the midst of a chaotic world.
Many people see Lord of the Flies as a microcosm of the world at large: an uncivilized place tamed only by order and logic. This is seen in ‘Painted Faces and Long Hair’, when the boys had started to get used to the island, and enjoyed its natural beauty and freedom from the old world. However, Roger, an older boy, was quite bored of his surroundings, so he picked up a couple of stones and deliberately started throwing them at a littlun (a younger boy) named Henry. However, none of these stones actually hit the child; there was a space around him that Roger didn’t dare throw stones into.
Golding describes this place as the “taboo of the old life… [Henry had] the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law” (Wiesel 62). The term “taboo” shows not only that Roger had realized that what he was doing was morally wrong, but also that he saw this realization as the reason not to hurt Henry. Using aspects of the old land, such as “parents”, “school”,”policemen” and “the law” to describe the “protection” Henry had around him shows that Roger was afraid of to defy everything that he had ever been taught about morals since he was little. This obviously highlights that Roger is inherently good.
While this is a good point, the logic fails to show that Roger was not seeing these societal teachings as a motive to not harm Henry. On the contrary, the morals that Roger was taught from outside influences was actually holding him back, controlling his intrinsic wickedness. If one were to read further, they would see undeniable proof of this, when Golding describes Rogers actions as being “conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins” (Golding 62). The term “conditioned” exemplifies that Roger’s old society does no less than constrict him from being taken to the full extent of his savage nature.
Describing the society as one which “knew nothing of him” is undeniable proof that these morals were foreign to his true being. Further describing the society as being “in ruins” shows that Roger was starting to accept this vicious nature as part of himself, and any sense of civilization was fading away. As the plot goes on, Roger lets this nature take over him, and joins Jack’s tribe after the splitting of the boys. This multitude of undeniable evidence substantiates that humans are nefarious from the start; the crux of their beings are nothing but pure villainy.
This is magnificently proven through the ingenious works of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Elie Wiesel’s Night, and Choice Theory by William Glasser. These literary pieces work together to exhibit how humans react to death, murder, as well as how greed exposes a human being’s intrinsic nature. Additionally, they refute the popular belief that humans are good in nature by exemplifying how societal teachings influence a person’s true malicious nature. The next time one does something good for another, consider this: does he actually mean it, or is it just society making him do what he thinks is right?