Born Bad? William Golding's Lord Thesis

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¶ … Born Bad? William Golding's Lord of the Flies & Agatha Christie's and Then There Were None

When philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the life of man in wartime as "nasty, brutish, and short," he was speaking more about the manner in which the majority of the population lived in 16th and 17th century Europe. He was also speaking of a view that the state of humanity was such that humans were born with an urge to the primitive. To successfully react and interact in society, then, humans need to be controlled, ruled, or dominated -- usually by a larger authority that would control the animalistic nature of humanity. What is it though that keeps the dark side from erupting in individuals? Why do some give in to anti-social behavior? And is the core of humanity really civilized, or is this entity we call civilization simply a mask to hide our true nature? In both Lord of the Flies and Then There Were None, we find a similar paradox -- the ease of which the basic trappings of civilization and coexistence can be ripped from the individual, and the basest of desires move to the forefront -- in one case lack of parental control, in the other case quite possibly sociopathic personalities.

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Lord of the Flies provides one with a clear understanding of William Golding's view of human nature. Whether this view is right or wrong is a not the thesis, but that humans can de-evolve into beasts is well documented. This image Golding paints for the reader, that of humans being inherently bad, is a perspective straight out of Thomas Hobbes. Lord of the Flies is but an abstract tool of Golding's to construct the idea of the inherent evil of human nature in the minds of his readers.

Thesis on Born Bad? William Golding's Lord of the Assignment

At many points throughout Lord of the Flies, the characters to become gradually more and more evil/bestial. This attribute even reaches the symbols of goodness and order, Ralph, one of the few attempting to stay "civilized." For instance, when Ralph and Piggy go to the feast on Jack's beach, they begin to meld with the others and their evil ways. "Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society" (Golding 138). This really only proves their common longing for a place with others, not any depth of evilness, but a willingness to go "along" with what must happen -- what rules the new society ensures.

Golding also has all of the characters eventually participate in the hunts, his representation of an evil ritual that humans perform. By having all of the characters practice this, he illustrates his belief that everyone is susceptible to turning evil. "[There was] something dark...fumbling along....The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in...two parallel lines...." (18). This is not necessarily true. Humans develop their own dedications to their own beliefs, morals, and ethics. Each person has the decision of acting how they wish. Many acts are considered "bad" by the ruling body of government and are punishable. Other acts are considered "good" and are rewarded. However, it must be seen that each individual decides for himself what is "good" or "bad" for him to do. Thus, most people act on what they consider good. Hunting, though, is necessary to eat -- but it is the way in which the boys clearly enjoy anger, torture and bloodlust that is reminiscent of view of Man as Beast. He [Jack] began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling" (58).

Golding's island is but a merely a microcosm of the entire world. The traits that come upon the children are, at least to Golding, the very inner nature of humans -- the traits that we would all hold onto if we did not have law -- for Golding -- Hobbes was right. "Maybe there is a beast....maybe it's only us" (80). But holding onto sanity -- holding onto law, to civility, and to the things that make humans greater than beasts are the luxuries of a society in which there are enough materials to organize that society -- to tier the society into people doing what is best for them, and their peers -- not simply for survival.

And Then There Were None, first published in 1939, ten people who had previously been involved or complicit in the deaths of others but somehow evaded capture or punishment, are tricked into coming to an island getaway. As the plot unfolds, each is murdered in a particularly "interesting" way, in a parody of the children's nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. In a similar manner, Christie wishes to show us that even the most civilized of humans deteriorates into their nature -- or animalistic side, once the ostensible trappings of civilization are stripped away. At the initial dinner everyone is dressed, is polite, and puts on airs. "Narracott: Looks neat enough for me, Kind of bare, but rich folks like places bare, it seems" (8). And yet, as the murders unfold and we are told why that person was guilty, the civilized nature of the characters devolves.

Each character is also symbolic of a particular aspect of society: the doctor who accidently killed a patient while under the influence of alcohol (Dr. Armstrong -- "Don't tell me I've forgotten one of my patients," 18); the hypocrisy of British society in Miss Emily Brent who "was brought up to keep my head and never make a fuss," but in reality repressed memories of firing a servant girl who then committed suicide (5); the blatant inhumanity of British Army Officers in Captain Philip Lombard to, "as a matter of self-preservation" left natives behind to die because, "natives don't mind dying…. They don't feel about it as European's do"(39); and even the manner in which a number of British aristocrats look down at other classes and think that their lives are worth more in Anthony Marston -- a man whose reckless behavior and callousness allowed him to cause the death of two young people (26).

It is no happenstance that both plots unfold on an island. What better way to remove civilization from a group that to sequester them away -- surrounded on all sides by a vast amount of water, and without the ability or skill to return to civilization or master their current environment. The children for Golding are not as far from their abject brutality as the adults for Christie. We do get the sense, though, that they could be identical -- simply change the chronology and gender. Because the children have not had decades of acculturation and have not learned to "fit in" to society, their brutality is much more primal and honest; and expected and perhaps even expected for survival "[the boys] found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror [of the makeshift beast] and made it governable" (138). The adults, however, have spent so long -- sometimes decades, trying to forget that one brutish thing in their background.

However, it also seems that Christie sees in the gray rather than the black-white. For her, murder (as the highest degree of savagery) is not consistent in morality -- there is good murder; ones who dispose of evil people; and bad murder; ones who prey upon people with inadequate defenses ("Therefore, you'd only do murder if you had a thoroughly good motive" 75). The true bad murderer is the true sociopath -- does not recognize any wrong doing, has no compunction to apologize, and can even justify their actions. "My dear lady, in my experience of ill doing, Providence leaves the work… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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