Chris Heath 9-11-97
Control Over Ourselves
Rules and laws are put into place by society to keep people from doing things that are wrong. But people still do those things. Why? As William Golding points out in Lord of the Flies, there is a capacity for evil within the human heart. But still, not all people do bad things. This is because some people have more self-control than others and can hold back their evil. The rules and laws give external-control to help people with less self-control keep back their evil. In Lord of the Flies Golding illustrates the continual struggle for self-control.
In the story, the boys on the island are a microcosm of the outside world. Ralph is representative of goodness in society--but, he is not perfect. He believes in government and order. Ralph is not excessively jealous or greedy, he just takes the initiative to get the boys on the right track to be rescued. Jack is more representative of anarchy, greed, and the Freudian Id. These two boys could easily represent a future power struggle between two politicians or national leaders. The one major difference between the boys is that Ralph has more of a conscience than Jack. Jack acts on personal impulses and Ralph's actions are guided by what he has learned from society. Ralph may not want to be in the position he is in, a power struggle of good versus evil, but he realizes that he is the only one who the group would respect as a leader besides Jack. In the book Ralph realizes that, "We'll be like animals." (Ch.5, Pg. 92) if Jack gains control of the group. This means that if Jack gains power the other boys, who don't have much self-control or don't know any better, they will be unable to stop the evil/animal inside.
Self-control comes with maturity and the boys aren't mature at all. The animal instinct, the evil, is much more present because they haven't been in society long enough to acquire and develop self-control from the society. Even Ralph has evil in him. He makes fun of Piggy and even participates in the killing of Simon. It is also easier for the children to become attached to Jack's "demented but partly secure" (Ch. 9, Pg. 152) society because they can just let their animal instincts guide them and disregard what little conscience they have.
Ralph's personal struggle for self-control 1s won after Simon's murder. After the boys kill Simon, when it has sunken in, Ralph comes to the realization that what is happening is very immoral. This is when Ralph's self-control is peaked. He would rather die than join Jack, as he nearly does. Jack never has a struggle for self-control. He does what he feels like with no care for what his actions bring as long as it is self-serving. The group of boys, however, do have a struggle for self-control. Simon, Piggy, and Ralph are the only ones who have enough self-control to fight Jack. The others just go with the flow; they listen to each leader and occasionally have their own thoughts, but follow the leader with the plan that seems the easiest.
When the boys first land everyone wants to get back, so Ralph's ideas grasp control at first. With his power Ralph tries to set structure and order, even a sense of government, with the conch and its rules. This works at first, but as time passes the other boys, with less self-control, can't keep up their hope of rescue and look to Jack who is for survival. Jack lets them do whatever they want. Jack doesn't tell them where to make a fire or go to the bathroom.
Jack doesn't make them build huts. This is how Jack gains power and the boy's fate is sealed, except for the god-like appearance of the naval officer. Between Ralph's reign and Jack's reign, there is a struggle. At one assembly that Ralph calls. Jack interrupts Piggy. 'The rules!' Shouted Ralph. "You're breaking the rules!’ 'Who cares?‘...'Because the rules are the only thing we've got!’...'Bullocks to the rules...’ (Ch. 5, Pg. 91) This shows Jack’s inability to accept authority and his endorsement of anarchy and totalitarianism. This also shows that Ralph knows that without rules the breakdown of society is evident. This struggle is a win for Jack because his idea is easier to grasp. Just do whatever you please. Ralph's ideas are societal, enforcing rules and laws. Because Ralph isn't intelligent enough to explain why rules and exterior-control are needed, his argument seems weak and unreal.
While Ralph's argument seems weak and unreal superficially, it is very true and Ralph is trying to do the right thing. Ralph just isn't strong enough to keep the boys on the right track. They are compelled by their ego. Golding is trying to say that the common people, not only the leaders, are also responsible for what happens. The bad things that happen are not Ralph's fault. Golding is pointing out a “weak spot” in society. Golding is saying that the common people must realize that they have to be strong individually. They can't just follow leaders blindly and go with the flow. While Golding is pointing out these weaknesses in humanity, the capacity for evil and the lack of self-control, he isn't giving any answers. Maybe he doesn't have any, but maybe Lord of the Flies is his answer. Golding couldn't make human nature change, but he could make people aware of what he saw as weaknesses, so by recognizing the problem we could begin to solve it.