Often times, humans take solace in man-made things. Laws, industrialization, and common ethical guidelines have distinguished humans from the savagery that thrives in the ‘natural world’. Even the simplest of innovations have sectored a race, once genetically and socially intertwined with animals now caged in zoos, from variables that threaten the security of control. The natural world, a beacon of unsettling unpredictability, is a vessel where most human beings can banish irrational fears. Irrational fears are threats to order and assurance, engendering unorthodox behavior in humans. These fears sometimes evoke intrinsic animalistic tendencies, but in the effort to justify them, humans obtain a sense of control over their lives. The quest to legitimatize irrational fears makes human beings succumb to barbaric acts.
This theme is very apparent in the acclaimed William Golding novel, The Lord of the Flies. The novel begins with a couple of young boys being stranded on a deserted island, away from their homes and adult figures. Not shortly after the boys acknowledge their isolated situation, they begin to draw a fine line between society and savagery. For instance, on the beach, Ralph and Simon built huts. Ralph, who was voted the leader of the pact of children, gradually grows frustrated because only Simon and he were working on the huts, and they were falling apart. He complains to Jack, the very impulsive leader of the hunt club, that everyone else was off playing or hunting. Savagery confronted civilization at that particular moment: as Jack hunted, Ralph built shelters. The shelters, throughout the book, symbolize protection and represent safety and security from beastiality. When Ralph tries to get everyone to build a sturdy shelter, he was trying to create an island civilization to keep everyone safe. This is vital for survival, as disengaging from nature is imperative in any other inherently civilized setting as well. This goes to show that civilized settings are not of the ‘natural’ world, but rather manufactured by fearing, rational human beings, like Ralph, in order to gain charge.
Jack, however, occupies himself with thrill and unkempt curiosity, traits that lack of civilization induce. His first act in savagery was killing a pig. When he lead his former band members on a quest to obtain food for the group, he was overcome with desire to witness gore. "Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!". Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering. (74-76)”. This shows how quickly children can return to primitiveness, given circumstances stripped from societal guidelines. Even Ralph, the more docile of the two, was inspired to partake in the pig’s murder. He too wanted to exert power over the vulnerable animal, to escape the reality of being a vulnerable child on a remote island. This brazen act of cruelty also shows that children, who have experienced civilization for a shorter amount of time, and who have not yet been fully inculcated with shared morals, can be more barbaric than adults. The transition from adolescence to adulthood, reflects the ‘natural’ world that adults, symbolizing a fabricated, modernized reality, continually suppress.
The clear lack of empathy for the sleigned pig, emphasizes bloodlust and the need to fill a power vacuum. Because the boys are seemingly susceptible on the deserted island, some boys, like Ralph, seek comfort in the power exerted to cause pain in others, and others, like Ralph, seek control in the energy exerted to separate from beastiality. The creation of the shelters and pig hunts were more than about having a safe place to exist in and having food to eat: They were the early displays of acquiring control through polar means.. Ralph had created a habitual shelter on the serene beach, and had coined the idea of a fire signal. This greatly contradicts Jack’s choice of residing. Castle rock becomes a personification of Jack. It is a reflection of what Jack becomes: blunt, stoned-hearted, apathetic and merciless. Rocks and stones, in this novel, generally symbolize savagery. As opposed to Ralf's home on the beach, Castle Rock represents a departure from a democratic society and a step towards authoritarian society. Jack instinctual tendencies thrive at this symbolic location. His fanatic followers soon acquire his system of values, which encompass dancing, killing, and hunting, without a question on the lack of morality. His willingness to immerse in this natural setting does not only engender his barbaric behavior, but also his apparent negligence for everything associated with civilization. For instance, when Ralph decides to lead his group of followers to repossess Piggy’s glasses, the only object that can rekindle the fire, they are greeted by a malignant, resisting Jack. Ralph’s group, who was concerned with returning back to civilization, needs Piggy’s glasses to maintain the fire signal, which symbolizes return to society and restored values. Jack’s zeal to integrate in the savage setting belies his true feelings of lack of control. He would rather embrace all of the unknown variables , so he sacrifices rationale, for savageness.
This concept is greatly exemplified in the dealings with the ‘beast’. The ‘beast’ becomes an embodiment of all of the boys’ fears, representing external savagery, that only the presence of civilization can protect the boys from. At first, the beast was nothing more than a product of the boys' imaginations. The smaller boys, or little’uns, are afraid of things they see at night; rather than be blindly afraid of The Great Unknown, they make their fears tangible in their mind. Because they cannot defeat something that does not exist, they manufacture a "something" To hunt and kill. And then an actual "something" does show up: the dead parachuting man, who seems to come in response to Ralph's request for a "sign" from the adult world. Later on, Piggy basically describes the beast as just a fear of the unknown: "I know there isn't no beast—not with claws and all that, I mean—but I know there isn't no fear, either" (99). This excerpt truly highlights the frailty of human nature resurfacing in a uncivilized setting. Because the boys felt powerless, isolated from a dominating world, and forced to live in the world that was usually subdued to slake the fears of human beings, they cast their eccentric fears into the unknown. Personifying the ‘beast’ which inherently lives in each of them is an attempt to regain control of their lives again. Having something existential to fear and overcome comforts them, inspiring the illusion that the beast is palpable, distracting them from actual, materialistic externalities.
Later in this novel, Simon insists that the beast is "only us" (195), meaning the boys and he. The beast is indeed just them, a person who fell out of nowhere, both literally and figuratively. When the twins listed off the horrible attributes of the creature they saw, they reveal that it had both "teeth" and "eyes", something humans too possess. But the ‘beast’ is a man who is not, the animal in all humans. Simon was extrapolating on the beast being the darkness that is inside each and every person. As the Lord of the Flies later suggests, it is incredulous to think that the beast is something that one "could hunt or kill" (8.337). If it is indeed internally stationed, the ‘beast’ is an entity that can never be defeated, seen, or given a justifiable form. However, the boys do manage to do all of these by very savage means. "What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What's grownups going to think? Going off--hunting pigs--letting fires out--and now!" Piggy asks in reflection of all the barbaric acts the boys had participated in(82). Piggy, who represented civilization, for having some rationale and valuing morale, was later murdered by a rock, which symbolizes savagery, as mentioned before. Their senseless actions expose that humans make their inner ‘beasts’ corporeal to avoid fearing a force more inherently evil by nature : themselves.
‘The beast’ transcends the pages of Lorde of the Flies and can be observed in the nonfictional life of human beings as well. In Tanzania, Africans with albinism have been persecuted relentlessly. Albinism causes lack of pigment in human beings. In many East African communities, people with albinism have been ostracised and even killed because they are presumed to be cursed and bring bad luck. Of course, this superstitious suspicions are baseless, but they are having a detrimental impact on the population of albinos in the area. Similarly to Lorde of the Flies, the Tanzanian natives who are partaking in the discrimination against their aalbino counterparts are funnelling their fear of bad luck and unfortunate events into human beings, to make it more tangible. Just like how it made the boys on the island feel more empowered to have a ´beast´ to hunt, the persecution of Albinos allows the persecutors to chanel irrational fear of bad luck on a source more compelling than a superstition. They cannot see nor defeat a superstition, it being abstract, so they are comforted by a physical outlet to cast their trepidations. Ralph, Jack, Piggy and the littluns, of course, could not see the ‘beast’ because it was an internal reflection of unease, so they made a physical being, the parachute man, their ‘beast’. As the ‘beast’ became more real, the possibility of expunging their fear augmented.
According to a series of Huffington Post articles on Albinos in Tanzania, Albinos are sacrificed to cure AIDS, to gain wealth, and for witchcraft. Peter Ash, founder and director of Under The Same Sun (UTSS), advocation group to protect the rights of Albinos, explained in the article,”Albinos In Tanzania Being Hunted For Their Body Parts For Witchcraft”, that “there is belief that if you have relations with a girl with albinism, you will cure AIDS”. Of course, this belief is baseless and is founded upon no scientific principle, but the fear of this widespread sickness, for 1.7 million Tanzanians have the aids virus, drives people to commit these licentious acts. Especially since the majority of the Tanzanians cannot afford the medicine and treatment for the illness, some choose to make their fear of death come alive in their vulnerable human counterparts. The boys on the island chose to make their fears tangible by creating the ‘beast’, similarly as some of the Tanzanian natives chose to make their fears tangible by hunting innocent Albinos.
In conclusion, the characters of Lorde of the Flies ironically took comfort in the creation of the beast. While they were looking for ways to justify the myth they created, they inflicted many evil acts on people around them. Alike, some Tanzanians have been reported to hurt Albinos, with the motive stemming from their fear of sickness, and their erroneous belief that the organs from albinos hold magical healing properties. For as long as civilization existed and continues to persist, humans will deflect their inner beasts into discernible beings. The allure of assigning a face to their inner demons give human beings a false sense of control and power. Because these 'beasts' are internal, and humans fear they have to fear themselves to attack it, they tend to transform it to a physical entity. This way, when they persecute their 'beast', they do not hurt themselves in the process. Humans can sometimes resort to inhumane crimes while morphing their fears into concrete forces.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin Group, 2003.
Kuruvilla, Carol. "Witch Hunts In Tanzania Are On The Rise As Vigilantes Seek Justice For Murders Of Albinos." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
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Oduah, Chika. "Love in a Time of Fear: Albino Women's Stories From Tanzania." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
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