Feedback please: Lord of the Flies essay

Question: Analyse how a character’s difficult decision(s) exposed an ugly truth.
Ugly truth: Society masks animalistic primal instincts to better suit the needs/expectations of society.

An ‘ugly truth’ is the unnecessary cost for achieving a goal that is often hard to admit to, usually brought about by stressful, traumatic, or difficult situations. Throughout William Golding’s novel, ‘Lord of the flies’ many ugly truths are exposed through several different events to show how the characters’ personal ‘ugly truths’ led to the downfall of their society in the mid to late 1940s. The story sets itself on an island after a group of young English boys have crashed due to an outbreak of war. This traumatic event led to the boys having to survive against the unlikely on an uninhabited island over a 6 month period. The boys then grow to show many dark ugly truths about their own perspective in reflection of their upbringing. William Golding provided an insight into the causes and meaning of behaviour from individuals.

In 1953, William Golding wrote ‘Lord of the Flies’ after observing his students as a teacher and comparing their interactions and motives to his own from his childhood. Golding described himself as a ‘frustrated child’ as he notably would bully his peers as an outlet, saying that he would “enjoy hurting people”. This experience then influenced ‘Lord of the Flies’ as it touches on similar topics regarding human primal instincts that are masked with societal impact. William Golding also had first-hand experience in the second world war, where he fought as a part of the Royal Navy, which helped him write about the societal effects of a war-induced community. Golding’s experiences in the Navy inspired him to create a single microcosm of society that displayed devolution of character, mannerism and behaviour within a community. This idea then helped William to create characters to represent different parts of society, as shown with their actions, morals and ideas towards each other and their situation.

In William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ the characters evolve over the course of the novel to reveal their personal needs from their peers. For example, Roger is a minor character in the novel who, when described, is often throwing stones at or near his peers. The first example of this is in chapter four when a few boys are taking time off to relax on the beach, Roger grabs a handful of rocks and starts throwing them in the proximity of Henry. Roger’s actions in chapter four were foreshadowing Piggy’s death in chapter eleven where the complete destruction of civilization had been made, and Roger’s stone-throwing had reached an all-new level. The character development of Roger in ‘Lord of the Flies’ is another example of how William Golding shows that all humans are savage by nature. Roger killing Piggy also shows his need to impress others, specifically Jack, the most feared and violent leader on the island. At this point in the novel, Jack had a large amount of authority over the other boys, Roger being no exception. Roger had shown his undying loyalty to Jack by eliminating any annoyance or inconvenience Jack may have had. This would help Jack view Roger as an important figure on the island, which would help better Roger’s social survival on the island. These ideas of the need to belong fit within Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs, which explains how human motivation is driven. By making a tier system of all universal needs, Maslow was able to predetermine actions individuals made based on their current situations, where most basic needs are fulfilled first and the more harder to obtain/abstract needs are then sought after. The ugly truth shown in Rogers’ character, fulfils the hierarchy of needs as Maslow’s system is applicable to all living creatures. Animals, as they don’t have access or the capability to want the higher tiered needs, are constantly trying to achieve their basic and some psychological needs, whereas humans have the ability to obtain the basic and psychological needs more efficiently. For all the boys on the island, they were born into lifestyles that instantly fulfilled most of their needs, so when they were removed from this established environment the boys regressed into uncharted territory that is the need to be autarkic. Roger’s decisions are in reflection of this as his need to feel that he belongs within Jack’s group can be linked to the psychological category of Maslow’s list, where a sense of identity, status, connection and self-esteem amongst others is desired. Through the character of Roger, William Golding was able to make evident that Roger’s decisions were the result of his fear of abandonment and a craving for a sense of belonging. Roger’s upbringing was forgotten as he transformed into being the most feared sadist on the island, where his prior knowledge of civilisation was replaced by the barbaric nature of those around him, as the boy’s actions had created a collective hysteria within the island.

Ralph’s decision to throw the handful of rocks near Henry in chapter four, showed the reluctance to break their sense of civilization into savagery that was ingrained into their minds by their parents, teachers, and other influential people in their lives. This sense of civility was soon after realised to be unnecessary in the boy’s reality as they had no older influences guiding their decisions and making rules for them to follow. Without Ralph’s parents to guide him into fulfilling social expectations, he was able to express his animalistic tendencies without punishment. As there were only boys Ralph’s age or younger, he was able to freely act in any way he wanted with no repercussions that would have been brought on in a normal setting. Realising that consequences for such actions were slim to none, Roger knew that pushing the boulder on Piggy would only have benefits, especially to him and Jack. The stone to boulder size increase shows how much Roger had lost his embedded knowledge of how he should act in the eyes of any influential person he had before their plane had crashed. The only thing that had stopped Roger from acting this violent way was the punishments - brought on by his parents or teachers - he would have faced, as those violent actions were deemed unnecessary to society (as they did not benefit anyone). Roger’s old society he was a part of only taught him to act in a way that better suited the needs and expectations of others - specifically older people or those with more authority. This devoted followership that Roger was taught became reflected in his henchman status in favour of Jack. After all, these expectations had become meaningless, and the boys were free to act however they wished. Roger knew that breaking this ugly truth that animalistic instincts are suppressed to be successful in modern society, wouldn’t have had any consequence. This is because reforming his old, ingrained way of living was no longer worth anything on the island as a new society had formed along with new needs. William Golding had suggested through the character of Roger that without rules and consequences - brought on by supervision - individuals will change their behaviour that best suits them according to their society and environment. Rogers’ upbringing - along with the other boys - was forgotten as it no longer served a purpose.

Based on the Freudian theory of primitive instincts, Rogers’ lack of hesitation to kill Piggy with the boulder shows the disinhibition of human primal instinctual forces that are embedded in human evolution. By the eleventh chapter of William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ Roger chose to disobey society’s expectations of how he should and should not be acting, which is shown with his actions of throwing stones at the other boys. Sigmund Freud, a neurological theorist and founder of psychoanalysis, shared his idea that all emotion, logic and action are the results of primal forces deeply embedded in human evolution. This theory explains that the brain is separated into two parts, the conscious and the subconscious. Barbaric animal instincts - as shown in Golding’s novel - are part of the subconscious psyche as it is out of our awareness but drastically affects our behaviour. ‘Ugly truths’ are also within the subconscious as we are often not aware we hold such biases. Additionally to this, the Freudian theory shares the idea that human personality is composed of three factors, the ‘Id’, ‘Ego’ and ‘Superego’. These components are similar to Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of needs’ as the ‘Id’ is the source for the most primal or basic desires, the ‘Ego’ covers the wishes of the ‘id’ in a socially acceptable manner, and the ‘Superego’ is all internalised moral standards. Roger’s decision to pelt his peers with stones completely disregards the ‘ego’, as he didn’t take into account the social implications of his actions because he did not have to in his new environment. The lack of presence of the ‘ego’ is common in animalistic behaviour as their societies don’t need to function in the same way. In William Golding’s novel, Roger, along with the other boys, were removed from a community that’s ‘ego’ influenced almost every decision and places into an inhabited island where their ‘ego’ showed no benefit. The change of character the boys had throughout the novel shows how much and how quickly a human individual will revert back to old animalistic tendencies when in certain unfamiliar environments, almost devolving. The world that the group of young boys has grown up in taught them that acting only on primal instincts was unnecessary and ill-mannered as the group of English boys would have had access to anything they could have needed. Sigmund Freud believed that civilisation was constructed to control animal forces inside humans, which is apparent when Roger’s ugly truth that animalistic instincts are suppressed in order to be successful in modern society is revealed.

William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ is a dramatic novel in which exposes modern society for its suppression of animalistic instincts despite these primal instincts being a historic part of human nature. With the help of theories from Abraham Maslow and Sigmund Freud, William Golding was able to construct the character of Roger as he displayed their theories of the inner human psyche. Decisions made by Roger and other characters prove that humans aren’t so different from animals and will revert back to savage tendencies within traumatic, stressful or difficult situations. The ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ and ‘Freudian theory’ help the audience understand the characters in ‘Lord of the flies’ and what their motives and perspectives may be, making the characters seem more realistic and human.

Kia ora - welcome to Studyit!

A lovely opening

Body para one - As it continues, there is a lot of good discussion but it is not immediately evident what the “difficult decision” that was made is or who made it - it comes out toward the end of the body paragraph starting “In William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ the characters evolve…” - I suggest signposting the difficult decision (and what was difficult about it) much earlier in the paragraph (preferably in the topic sentence). Make sure you unpack what the decisions were (this reads a lot more like events, rather than the character having to make a choice). You do this much more clearly in the next paragraph.

Apart from this - a wonderful essay with some really insightful discussion! Well done :slight_smile:

Kiā ora and welcome to Studyit.
You set up the ugly truth clearly and it is a thoughtful one, but not the character you are going to be looking at. It is wise to make it absolutely clear where you are gpiong in the intro. It does become clear however pretty quickly that you are looking at Roger and he is a good choice. Good use of specific examples and evidence, you integrate Marlow and Freud in an interesting way and the essay is really sound.
Good job! :+1: