31 March 2017
Lord of the Flies Essay
Empathy vs. Ego
For many fear is not something pleasurable which they experience. When people think of fear they add a negative connotation towards it and a sense of dislike for it. However, when it is not our fear which is on the line, the courage to overcome the fear is taken for granted and not realized by others until they are put into that same position. We always encourage our friends to face their fears, but would we ourselves take the advice we give to others? Everyone has been in a situation where they are trying to overcome one of their fears and understand the difficulty of the situation. Where is the empathy expressed with other emotions such as sadness or joy? When fear is expressed by others, empathy is lost in our response due to the desire of disbelief that we never experienced fear.
In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, he tells a story of young boys stranded on an island struggling to keep their civil nature and not fall into primal instincts and savagery amongst themselves. They, however, are unable to hold onto themselves, losing all sense of morality. When one of the younger boys shows fear of a beast on the island, he brings it up to the older boys. They, however, shrug it off as if it is nothing at all. They don’t even in any way show consideration that maybe something is on the island. Jack, one of the older boys, simply tells them, "…fear can't hurt you any more than a dream. There aren't any beasts to be afraid of on this island . . . Serve you right if something did get you, you useless lot of cry-babies!"(82)
Since the older boys have outgrown believing in monsters, they understand that there isn’t a something out to get them but they are still young enough to remember they were once that age and had experienced the same thing. Jack even goes out of his way to call these kids names for believing in such things but by doing so he proves the emotion that is going through him. Internally his ego is battling the fact that he was once like those kids and wants to forget that part of him. But through denying the existence of this monster he is avoiding having to fear it himself. For Jack, it is simply the easiest path to irrationalize the idea because then no justification is needed for neither himself nor the little kids.
Children have some of the most creative and unique minds but a majority of the time are shut out by grown-ups. Kids can come up with these crazy ideas and when brought up, they are immediately shot down with denial from their parent without actual real thought because we want to think that because they are younger, they don’t have the same higher level thinking as us and therefore cannot come up with an “intelligent” idea. This case is especially accurate through children who are not taken seriously. According to Peter Gray Ph.D., he states that “When your child screams at being put to bed alone at night, your child is not trying to test your will! Your child is screaming, truly, for dear life.” This simply shows how we react to someone else's fear without considering the possibility that it may be real. Instead of thinking about the situation, it is simpler to believe something just because it is easier. It is easier to think that as children we wanted our parents rather than we had actually been scared. The fact that so many parents do not even take this into consideration shows how much they don’t want to believe the fact as well. Fear for your own life is an extremely powerful and traumatizing emotion and to have it be a possibility of what is happening to your child's and not even considering the scenario is shocking to me. Laziness is often considered a physical not wanting to work, but the laziness of mind is the greatest selfishness someone can commit.
When thoughts on the subject of the beast had been changed to Piggy, another protagonist in the story, he had also been unable to see things from the perspective of the kids. Instead, he had decided to take a more rational approach to this by saying, "Life […] is scientific, that's what it is. [...] I know there isn't no beast—not with claws and all that I mean—but I know there isn't no fear either."(84) For this particular character, he had wanted more of a logical response to the situation which gives him the ability to avoid having to deal with emotions at all but science can only take him so far. According to Charles L. Bennett, “...science doesn’t “prove” theories. Scientific measurements can only disprove theories…”(Dr. Jay Wile) This is important because the most Piggy can do is say that there is no “beastie” but that doesn’t include anything else which may be a threat to them on the islands. Throughout the novel, Piggy considers himself the “smart one” in the group and now even he is unable to prove that there is not something on the island trying to get them. This in a way a shot to his ego and pride. He doesn’t want to believe that it is true but if this logical approach had truly been done by Piggy, he would know this is definitely true. Rather than admitting the situation and hurting his pride he chooses to deny the story altogether.
In conclusion, fear can be expressed in many ways, but what people fail to realize is how they themselves perceive it. To ourselves it is something we are going to try and stay away from, to others, it will be something we help them overcome but never will mutual understanding of fear exist. Everyone experiences fear but don’t like to admit it. It is simpler to say you are fearless because you see other people react when being fearful. Naturally, people don’t want to bring themselves down and admitting to it one of the biggest drops someone can go through. Fear will always exist inside of us and we will always have a way to experience it ourselves but the way we see other’s fears can change our very understanding of fear itself.
Gray, Peter. "The Monsters Under the Bed Are Real: Why Children Protest Bedtime." Kindred Media. N.p., 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.http://kindredmedia.org/2011/10/the-monsters-under-the-bed-are-real-why-children-protest-bedtime/
Wile, Jay. "Science Can’t Prove Anything." Proslogion. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. http://blog.drwile.com/?p=5725
Colder, C. R., J. E. Lochman, and K. C. Wells. "The Moderating Effects of Children's Fear and Activity Level on Relations between Parenting Practices and Childhood Symptomatology." Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 1997. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9212377
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006.