Fear of the Unknown

Fear; an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause mental or physical pain. People fear different things, some people fear deadlines and dates, some people fear loneliness and isolation, some people fear death, and for children a common fear is a monster underneath their beds waiting to hurt and scare them. This emotion is a plot-driving element in the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Fear is a recurring element that revolves around an image that the boys created known as “the Beast.” The Beast was powerful because of the fact that it was something unknown. The fear of the unknown is something that is much greater than fear of tangible situations because something unknown cannot be expected.

In the novel, the boys on the island are young, aging from ages 12 and under. As children, they have huge imaginations causing ideas to grow out of proportion. The Beast is an unknown creature that terrified the littluns at first until the image formed into something terrifying enough that even the bigguns were scared. Eventually the fear built up to the point that they killed one of the boys named Simon cause they believed he was the beast. Ralph the leader of the boys and Piggy his closest friend and the most intelligent among the boys discuss the situation regarding the beast.“‘But s’pose they don’t make sense? Not here, on this island? Supposing things are watching us and waiting?’ Ralph Shuddered violently and moved closer to Piggy, so that they bumped frighteningly. ‘You stop talking like that! We got enough trouble, Ralph’” (92) Children fear many things when they are young, but what makes the children brave are when their parents reassure them that the fear is just in their head. Most of the time on the island, the boys were not afraid of being stuck on the island or even starving. When some of the bigguns start to believe the Beast, there is no rational person to convince each other that is in their heads. This allows the Beast to become something much scarier than it first was. They had no control of their situation. If the boys had never feared the image of the Beast and if they’d learned to control their fear Simon wouldn't have died.

A similar incident occurred regarding the fear of a unknown or mythical being only this time it was not in a book. In 2014 a 12-year-old girl from Wisconsin was stabbed 19 times by two of her friends. The girl was left for dead, but she had managed to crawl to a sidewalk where she was found by a bicyclist. The girls stated they were trying to impress Slenderman, a fictional character found in horror stories. According to CNN “One of the suspects told the police that Slenderman is the site’s supposed leader, and to climb into his realm, a user must kill someone.” The two girls had attacked their friend out of fear of Slenderman. Slenderman being a very popular figure has had lots of online users create images with him, making him seem more realistic giving the girls more reasons to fear him. After seeing these images and reading the stories online about how he murdered and abducted kids, they hoped that with killing their friend the girls could enter his realm where they could be safe.  In his realm, they would not have to fear being killed or hurt by Slenderman.

There are many ways people attempt to overcome fear. According to the University of Minnesota there are a few key strategies; promoting positivity, find meaning behind the fear, go for a walk, and getting support from others.  A strategy often used with children is finding support and sharing it with an adult. Often parents try to reassure their children that they will protect them and that they should have nothing to fear. However, In Lord of the Flies the children’s fear is made worse with the children repeating the idea of the Beast. At one point the boys even put a pig's head on stake as a tribute to the beast so they would be safe. The support they try to build with each other just made the fear worse, especially with no authority figure telling them that they have nothing to fear and that they will be protected. With the two girls who stabbed their friend, they had no parent or authority figure reassuring them that they were safe because they never tried to get support. Slenderman was seen as an authority figure to them who could protect them if they entered his realm, similar how the boys left the pigs head for the Beast so they would not be attacked.

The Beast was only powerful because the fear of something unknown is worse than the fear of something realistic. Fear is caused by the unknown outcomes and possibilities in life. The Beast was only able to gain control over the boys because they had no reassurance that it was in their heads. Similar to the Slenderman story, the girls had let the monster control them and it led to the attempted murder of their friend. Fear is something very powerful and has the capabilities of controlling people and destroying people. People need to grasp ahold of their fears before they build up and begin to become a practical reality. In both scenarios, following strategies for overcoming fear, especially getting support can prevent these figments from maturing.

Work Cited

  1. Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006.

  2. How to Deal with Chronic Fear and Anxiety.” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/security/facing-fear/how-deal-chronic-fear-and-anxiety.

  3. “Fear.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/fear.

4. Hanna, Jason, and Dana Ford. “Slenderman Stabbing.” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 June 2014, www.cnn.com/2014/06/03/justice/wisconsin-girl-stabbed/index.html.

Comments (3)

Nhu Lai (Student 2020)
Nhu Lai

I learned that fears of the unknown are the biggest fear to human, because of the fact that we don't know what it is, so we cannot get ready for it. Usually fear of the unknown only happens in kids, so to avoid this, we can help the children to fight back their fears by doing the positive activity around them. Avoiding to create a fear in children mind by acting mature around kids. Tell them what is fiction and nonfiction, and teach them the way to figure it out by themselves.

Madison Siegel (Student 2020)
Madison Siegel

I would like to start off with the fact about how you really were able to pull readers into this essay by telling that story about Slenderman and what those girls did. You also helped to relate this essay to the readers by pointing out problems that they can relate to. I learned that people are always going to have fear, but that teaching people how to overcome it is how to solve this situation.

Mia Concepcion (Student 2020)
Mia Concepcion

I learned that fears of the unknown are more powerful and controlling than realistic fears, because our minds make up infinite possibilities, giving the fear more power to take over us. I also learned that fears make us go out of control when we do not have an authority figure to talk us down from it, or protect us. I believe that like stated in this essay, we can avoid or solve fears by spreading more positivity, and making children feel safe in order to share any fears that they have. We must acknowledge children's fears and get to the root of why they have them, so they can have some reassurance and the ability to have power over them.