Human Nature

William Golding subtly depicts Ralphs transformation in the novel, more specifically his descent into savagery, as a natural process and parallel to this regression is his loss of innocence. Golding at the beginning of the novel establishes Ralph as a prominent character in order to contrast him to his later self at the end of the book. For example, Golding begins his parable of human evil by lightly characterising Ralph as an archetype of heroism and innocence. However later Golding contrasts this with his nuances of religious imagery ‘his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat’. Golding links the word ‘forehead’ with ‘scar’ hence enforcing the biblical story of Abel and Cain and the mark of Cain, in which Cain was punished by God for killing his brother. This association therefore, portrays Ralph as a potential killer, foreshadowing his participation in Simon’s murder. Golding further shows the change in Ralphs attitude when ‘he became conscious of the weight of clothes, kicked his shoes off fiercely and ripped of each stocking’ here Golding is displaying through Ralph that without the overbearing repercussions of society man will inevitably revert back to its original state; a state of nakedness and a state of civilization. However, alternatively Golding could be referencing to a pre-civilized culture like that of the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, the violent undertones of the words ‘kicked’, ‘fiercely’ and ‘ripped’ shows Ralph’s inner incentive for savagery and provide a contrast for when he was being ‘offhand’ and ‘disentangled himself cautiously’.

Golding further displays the change in Ralph when he ‘pulled off his shirt’ symbolically disconnecting himself from the social foundation in the ‘home counties’ that he has just left. This is also emphasized when he ‘stood there among the skull-like coconuts’ which could be an allusion to the Latin Christian theory of memento mori, simultaneously linking Ralph with this idea of death. Golding also tests a Hobbesian hypothesis through Ralph who is ‘old enough, twelve years’ by giving him a chance between acting upon his natural primordial instincts which promote savage behaviour or the rebuild the organized structure they have just left and by doing this Golding links ralphs transition throughout the novel to one of the central themes of the novel which is the opposing impulses in human nature.

Following his attempt to recreate a semblance of law and order on the island, Ralph is elected leader of the boys because of superficial reasons and in this Golding could be making a mockery of the political system and he maybe conveying mankind’s ignorance and callousness. This could relate to his experiences in the war in which mankind was ignorant enough to allow ww2 to occur despite the detrimental results of ww1.Following Ralphs new role of chief he decides to ‘have hands up like at school’ but no one will be interrupted except by Ralph. Ralph’s attempt to mirror democratic freedom that he had previously been exposed to is undermined because Ralph is the one who decides if you can get the conch shell. This therefore implicates that democracy is still dependant on its sole leader and Golding is subtly critiquing Ralph’s style of leadership. This demonstrates Ralph’s change from the ‘fair boy’ with ‘his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil’ to his new position as chief and his power in the group of boys. Golding also links this new position to Ralph’s change in character as he becomes naïve and oblivious when telling the boys ‘we want to have fun and we want to be rescued’. Here, Ralph like a populist politician is telling the boys what they want to hear rather than the actual truth. This shows that Ralph has a romantic wistful view of the situation rather than a logical practical view and the implication that Golding might be trying to make is that society tainted their view of reality and their own true nature which Golding became aware of during his time as a naval officer. Golding further explores the different ways Ralph changes by contrasting Ralph’s and Jack’s relationship where they ‘smiled at each other with shy liking’ which could perhaps mean that good and evil is inextricably linked to ‘the antagonism was audible’ between the two. The animosity between the two boys stems from their conflicting ideologies and like the democratic system, the boys’ provisional government ignites controversy and argument.

Throughout the novel, the change in Ralph is also apparent through his physical appearance when he becomes ‘very brown and filthily dirty’. The continual mention of Ralph’s deteriorating physical state and his growing hair could illustrate the eclipse of intelligence and rationality by illogicity and impulse and could also be an outer depiction of his inner evil. Ultimately Ralph’s loss of clothing demonstrates his movement away from ‘the taboo of the old life’. As a result, this contradicts the ideals in society in which children are completely innocent and therefore it could also reflect the loss of a moral compass Golding experienced in ww2.Furthermore, Golding also shows Ralph’s change in mentality as the novel progresses because ‘the world, that understandable and lawful world was slipping away’ Golding here forces the reader to acknowledge that Ralph is no longer comforted by the society he once was which also emphasizes his gradual descent into evil. Ralph’s new realisation and internal battle could be reflecting the hysteria of the cold war.

As the novel progresses Golding displays notable changes in Ralph for example when he participates in the pighunt. After this he ‘sunned himself in their new respect and felt that hunting was good after all’ this shows that Ralph prior to this has been oblivious to the pleasure hunting brings because the hadn’t experienced the ‘thrill’; Ralph had been adamant throughout the novel that hunting should not be a priority to the boys but his perspective on the activity changed when ‘Ralph look back at Jack, seeing him infuriatingly for the first time’. This shows how Ralph has changed from dismissing hunting as a fruitless task to having a newfound recognition for hunting. It is ironic because Ralph throughout the novel has always reprimanded Jack for hunting, this could perhaps be Golding telling us that whether or not one is ignorant of their inner evil it is an innate characteristic that subsides in all of us. By this, Golding appears to be suggesting that man’s inner cruelty can only be unleashed when one is not under the control of society and only when one has the individual freedom to pursue their own primal pleasures. It also enforces the Christian doctrine of original sin in which man’s inclination to evil stems from the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In addition to this, Golding maybe trying to illustrate the idea of herd mentality in which Ralph’s actions are influenced by the boys and therefore he is in a heightened emotional state also after hunting the boar Ralph yearns the attention of the other boys ‘didn’t you see me?’ here Golding could be trying to show that part of mankind’s evil is our sadistic desire to outwit one another and our hunger for power.

Overall the pighunt encapsulates Ralph’s transition from calm and practical to conflicted and violence; no matter how much he promotes law and order he will always succumb to the barbarity that loiters within him. ‘The desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering’ the noun ‘desire’ emphasizes his strong feelings of desperation and the abandonment of his morals in order to satisfy himself and as a result dramatizes the central themes of the loss of innocence in this book. The word ‘overmastering’ also shows that he was overcome by his compulsion to cause pain and hence reinforces Golding belief that we are driven by our barbaric instincts.

Golding ends the ends the novel with Ralphs ultimate realisation about human nature and man’s capacity for evil which ultimately shows Ralphs change from this oblivious boy that he was at the begging of the book ’Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart and the fall through the air of his true wise friend called Piggy’. Golding contains Ralph’s journey through democracy to eventually anarchy which lead to complete disorganisation between the boys. The ‘darkness of man’s heart’ expresses Golding’s central view on human nature and the hidden evil in every individual. The word ‘fall’ could perhaps be relating to Ralph’s declining power in lord of the flies and essentially the declining influence of the government and rules that he tries so hard to maintain. Ralph has finally witnessed man’s dark and disturbing inhumanity to man and in this Golding is exemplifying, through Ralph the innocent victims of ww2; victims of man’s cruel nature.