The Beast Within

In his novel Lord of the Flies, author William Golding uses events in the story to reflect the belief of philosopher Thomas Hobbes: that man is by nature evil. The eventual destruction of the island symbolizes the corruption of society due to the prevalence of evil. Golding reflects Hobbes' ideas through the actions of three of his characters in the novel: Jack, Ralph, and Simon.

The most dominant force of evil is represented by Jack, the malicious hunter who entices the other boys to sin. Early on in the novel, Jack develops a liking for destruction and a lust for blood, and he actually enjoys hunting and killing pigs in a cruel fashion. Also, by painting his face like a savage, Jack is "liberated from shame and self-consciousness," and he "[begins] to dance [with a] bloodthirsty snarling"(58). By the end of the novel, he plunges the other boys into a chaos of brute activities that include the murder of two human beings. Golding uses Jack as a tool to suggest that man by nature is prone to evil and has a lust for authority; and by Jack's influence toward the other boys, Golding shows that the annihilative force of evil will ultimately control all mankind.

In contrast, Ralph's evil nature is constantly struggling with his conscience; it eventually emerges and prevails, though, which further provides proof to Hobbes' theory of man's evil nature. Initially Ralph is an intelligent, well-adjusted young man; but as he proceeds with life on the island, he too is affected by the evil that Jack brings out. Often he is mean to the weaker, and he joins in the mocking of Piggy. Occasionally he loses his temper, and flashes of his demonic sides are shown. Eventually, Ralph "[finds] he [is] able to measure the distance coldly and take aim [to kill a living creature]"(102). He even joins in the maniacal and brutal killing of Simon. Ralph is an example of the common man, with evil preexisting in him. Golding proves that evil force will ultimately take over common sense, as demonstrated by the gradual downfall of Ralph's character and his loss of self-control. Although Simon shows no significant trace of evil and believes in spiritual reality, Golding uses him to imply that evil can go very far. It is through the eyes of Simon that the reader realizes evil lurks within every single person. First of all, Simon is the first to suggest that "maybe [the beast is] only [the boys themselves]"(80). He recognizes the beast as a projection of the fear within the boys, and that the only "beasts" are the ones that people create. Furthermore, through his conversation with the Lord of the Flies, Simon realizes that all evil will break loose and even he can't stop it. In addition, through the slaughter of the innocent Simon, Golding furthers his attempts to show the evil that surfaces when man is left in his natural state of being. Through Simon, Golding conveys Hobbes' beliefs that evil will triumph if all restraints of society are stripped away, and that the only object man should fear is himself.

Hobbes believes that men cannot be trusted to govern themselves or make their own decisions. He also believes that people are by nature selfish and evil. Golding's novel is a strong proof for this assumption; when the rules of civilization disappear, the seemingly angelic boys become monsters and chaos eventually destroys the island. The boys fight over power, resort to mindless violence and murder, and they willingly become savages. By the end of the novel, what is left of humanity is completely demolished by the hunt intending to kill Ralph. Hobbes believes that all men are evil, and Golding's Lord of the Flies is a perfect advocate of his belief.