Evil is inherent in the human mind, whatever innocence may cloak it…
Imagine, for a moment, a desolate island. This was, for ages untold, a deserted place. Now, however, it has become a place of evil, diabolical doings, and sinister savagery. This is a place where rules go out the window and where bloodshed is acceptable. The island also soon sees the materialization of two surreal and horrifying objects, which quicken the pulse of even the island’s most evil and monstrous inhabitants…
As gruesome as it sounds, this is William Gerald Golding’s book, Lord of the Flies. Welcome to a dark and forbidding land, at first inhabited by simple, innocent children. After a time, when they are finally rescued, these kids live where rules are a thing of the past. Lord of the Flies, as mentioned above, makes use of a sow’s head and a fallen parachutist. These bizarre objects, as well as the torrential Jack, come into play as deep symbolism of evil, disorder, the Devil, and society. They are countered by purity and goodness (in the form of Simon), who on the same note is the Christ figure, who offers salvation and love and is murdered in return for his efforts. Though this book is not recommended for those who do not have a cast-iron stomach, its symbolism is profound. Although Simon and Jack are as different as east is from west, there are many ways in which the two can be both likened and contrasted with one another.
Regardless of the fact that, in the end, Jack and Simon are radically dissimilar, some things about the two are alike. At the start of the novel, it is learned that some boys from Great Britain were traveling together on a plane, which was sadly shot down, and left them stranded on an island. Great Britain, as anyone knows, is revered for its polite and well-mannered people, and ordered society. Unfortunately, Great Britain may be the undoing of the boys; no doubt that they were surprised to be freed from rules, but very happy about it, too: “Eyes shining, mouths open, triumphant, they savored the right of domination” (Golding 29). No doubt that, if the boys had never been stranded, they would never rebel against society. Jack, the choir leader of the boys, is not an evil person. However, because he is in charge of the others, he takes his responsibility—and accompanying power—very seriously. Ralph, Simon, Jack, Piggy, Sam and Eric; all the boys are, to begin with, perfectly normal. None of them are mean. Jack is a bit bossy at times, but everyone is together and overall relatively similar to one another. This will soon change, however, as one of the sides is drawn to evil.
By way of comparison, differences abound between Jack and Simon, who are almost complete opposites. The Beast, which was really the fallen parachutist, symbolizes the evil that resides within man. Jack’s immorality quickly evolves, and as he is ultimately responsible for three deaths, he exemplifies this evil within. The children, Jack included, are aware that such a “beast” exists, but Simon is the only one of the group who comes to realize that this beast lies within them. Understand that Jack is not this evil itself, but his wickedness rears its ugly head the most. By contrast, Simon is a merciful and gentle person whose life is led by a good, Godlike kindness C while Jack ultimately turns into a sort of Devil. Simon realizes mankind’s capacity for evil, as he looks at the sow/Lord of the Flies: “The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business” (137). It must be understood, however, that inasmuch as Jack and Simon symbolize the Devil and God [respectively, of course], Jack is not complete evil, as Satan is known as, and Simon is not perfect, as God is. Neither boy is an “absolute.”
The Lord of the Flies represents the Beast’s danger and power. However, it is the second manifestation of the Beast, whose first form was that of the parachutist. The term “lord of the flies” is a translation of the Hebrew name for Beelzebub. The severed head of the pig symbolizes the panic and the decay that occur in the story. As it “talks” to Simon, it explains what the Beast really is. This is a major concept, as the boys believe that the evil is the Beast itself. Only Simon knows that the Beast represents evil, not embodies it. Since the pig is not only a nonhuman but also dead, its “speech” is Simon’s realizations and his imagination, but it explains what the Beast really is: “There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast … Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! … You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?” (142) When Simon tries to explain his realization to the others, however, he is mistaken to be the Beast and killed. The Beast itself represents the villainy and immorality of humanity. Everyone is capable of such evil, and it is everyone’s duty to subdue it.
Another aspect that shows the radical differences between Jack and Simon is their attitude toward others. Jack is a cruel, mean-spirited boy who is quite cruel to almost everyone around him. Under his rule, many of the boys become uncivilized savages, who have no discipline. Even the helpless “littluns” are tormented by Jack, who does such things as kick apart their sand castles. Jack Merridew treats others as inferiors. Simon, on the other hand, is a gentle boy who is compassionate and humane toward everyone, especially the “littluns,” whom he realizes are very vulnerable to Jack and the savages. Unlike Jack, Simon is a person who is often found alone with nature, and kind to it. Simon would never give a thought to slaughtering a pig, but Jack would never go off for some time of tranquility in nature’s midst. Jack, a sort of representation of the Devil, has no feelings of remorse whatsoever upon his first kill, which is the pig: “His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink” (70).
Ultimately, Jack attempts to kill Ralph with a spear, pointed on both ends, which is the same weapon used to kill the pig and mount its head. In other words, this savage would kill and behead Ralph if he caught him. On the other hand, after his experience with the Lord of the Flies, Simon goes to tell the others about the so-called Beast—that it is something within them, and that what they are truly experiencing is the fear of fear itself. Simon, despite his knowledge that many boys are now hunters and savages, goes to tell his realization to everyone else. Mistaken for the Beast, the others kill him. Jack is the perpetrator of this killing, as he is the leader of the murderous hunters. Simon is fearless, as he believes—and realizes—that the evil of the island comes from within. Another way in which this expresses the comparison between Simon and Jesus is that they were both cruelly killed, though they offered love and salvation. As Simon portrays Jesus, Jack is indeed a personification of Satan.
The recurring use of gore constantly rears its ugly head throughout the book, but it adds to the sad realism of what evil we are capable of. The minds is like an amazing computer, and it is easily corrupted. We are not perfect, and we are capable of terrible destruction and vicious acts. Jack and Simon were similar in the sense that they started out very much alike, and both wanted to survive the island and be rescued. Besides this, however, they are radically dissimilar. Jack is an indiscriminate killer, he represents the Devil, and he is cruel. Simon, on the other hand, is a humanitarian, a personification of Jesus, and he is kind to others.
When Simon realized that the Lord of the Flies was, in reality, an evil within people, the realization soon cost him his life. The Beast was within everyone, and came out mostly through Jack, and he cost others their lives, having never realized the truth about the Lord of the Flies. However, since people have free will, they can still be influenced by the Devil and by freedom from rules. The Devil can influence people, but people make their own decisions nonetheless. Jack used his free will to kill others, and the dark side of humanity infected the island. When the naval officer came at the very end, he rescued those who were still alive. He was too late to save the lives of many. Because of their rescue, the island would once again be deserted for ages untold, but it would never be the same. It had forever been changed by people who, when rules and morality are forgotten, are capable of great evil. Ralph and some of the others may have survived the island, but can we do the same? Or are we doomed to a fate that we have created?