William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a fictional novel in which the author describes the journey of a group of boys who attempt to govern themselves after being stranded on an island due to a plane crash. The book portrays the boys as they descend into savagery when left solitary on an uninhabited island far from the restraints of society. Through his book, Golding implies that the flaws of society come directly from the flaws of individuals (Epstein 3). This is demonstrated by the effect of group mentality on the boys. One instance of this mentality was during the second hunt in which Jack and his tribe kill the sow. None of the boys would have performed this act alone, but as a group, they proceeded to violently take the sow’s life in the midst of the “sweat […] noise […] blood and terror” (Golding 135). Simon’s brutal death due to the “tearing of teeth and claws” of the other boys was another event that solely occurred due to the entire groups’ participation in the murder (Golding 153). Throughout the novel, there are many instances where the group mentality pushes the boys to go further against their basic morals; much more than they would alone.
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In his article, “Why Boys Become Vicious,” author William Golding reflects on the idea that the cruelty within the children who have no guidance or support, flourishes in situations of chaos and fear. After World War I, Russia experienced “gangs of [orphaned] children without anywhere to live or anything to live on who roamed the country attacking and killing out of sheer cruelty” (“Why Boys Become Vicious” par. 11). Furthermore, Golding refers to the children as a gang to emphasize that these acts of inhumanity were a group effort. When all these children collectively experienced the loss of a loving figure, their lives were in chaos. The situation of these children is similar to Jack and his hunters killing the sow out of pure malice. Jack’s hunters chant as a group, showing their cohesion and how they prefer to kill together. Both of the groups were experiencing a state of social disorder in their lives. Just as the children were left to survive alone, Jack and his hunters underwent their big break away from Ralph resulting in them having to fend for themselves, but also leaving them with no restraint on their actions. From both these situations, it can be seen that chaos has an effect in the motives behind cruelty and that the lack of guidance contributes to the barbaric behavior. Golding also mentions that cruelty stems from fright. Being alone generates a fear that enables people to discover violence within them, however “when they are afraid together […that] violence […] can be bottomless” (“Why Boys Become Vicious” par. 15). Along with chaos, fear was also present among the boys on the island. Be it fear of the beast, or fear of never getting rescued, it played a huge role in the cruelty of the boys. The terror of the beast was what led to the violent death of the boys’ only hope, Simon. Likewise, the children in Russia living without adult protection were often frightened along with the various other common childish fears. This common weakness that is experienced due to fear dominates humanity, creates a hysterical environment, and prevents humans from making rational decisions.
Similarly, banding together into a group makes an individual less likely to follow normal restraints due to the diffusion of responsibility. Rick Hampson, the author of the article “Real ‘Beast’ in Deadly N.Y. Crush: Wild Crowd,” describes the crowd, which stampeded innocent people at a rap stars basketball game, as an inhumane beast that “laughed and joked amid the despair” (Hampson 4). Both the article and the Lord of the Flies referred to the groups as disrespectful and uncivil beasts, in which participants lost their individuality. The crowd brought out their inner darkness which lead to a loss of morality and dehumanized them. The beast is also used to symbolize the savagery that is present in every human being and which only comes out after the boundaries of civilization have been broken. Giving in to the innate barbarism as a group, enables the behavior to become a norm and makes it easier for others to lose the ability to remain civilized. Additionally, throughout the article and in the novel, who the blame falls on plays a huge role in the overall idea of group mentality. In the deadly stampede, “[almost] no one pointed at another culprit: [the] crowd that spawned [the] beast” (Hampson 1). Being a part of the so-called beast can make people feel excited, powerful, and invisible. This came into play the morning after Simon’s death in which both Ralph and Piggy convinced themselves that it was an accident even though they were there and didn’t try to stop the boys, all in hopes of becoming a part of the “demented, but partly secure society” (Golding 152). Humans tend to naturally follow others, regardless of the validity of the actions. They find comfort in the fact that once they are a part of the group they will be less liable for an action rather than when alone.
In his novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding utilizes the boys on the island to showcase a microcosm of the real world. Through this microcosm, Golding is able to convey the message that humans are inherently evil and that they corrupt society. By analyzing different events in today’s world, the reader can understand the repercussions that a group mentality can have on society. After comparing the two, it is clear that both humans and society suffer from the effects of mob mentality in which people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional – rather than rational – basis.
- Epstein, E.L. “Notes on Lord of the Flies.” Lord of the Flies. By William Golding. Library of Congress Catalogue, Putnam Publishing Group, 1954. Print.
- Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Library of Congress Catalogue, Putnam Publishing Group, 1954. Print.
- Golding, William. “‘Why Boys Become Vicious’ .” 28 Feb. 1993.
- Hampson, Rick. “Real ‘Beast’ in Deadly N.Y. Crush: Wild Crowd.” 5 Jan. 1992.
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