Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.
This passage from Chapter 4 describes the beginnings of Roger’s cruelty to the littluns, an important early step in the group’s decline into savagery. At this point in the novel, the boys are still building their civilization, and the civilized instinct still dominates the savage instinct. The cracks are beginning to show, however, particularly in the willingness of some of the older boys to use physical force and violence to give themselves a sense of superiority over the smaller boys. This quotation shows us the psychological workings behind the beginnings of that willingness. Roger feels the urge to torment Henry, the littlun, by pelting him with stones, but the vestiges of socially imposed standards of behavior are still too strong for him to give in completely to his savage urges. At this point, Roger still feels constrained by “parents and school and policemen and the law”—the figures and institutions that enforce society’s moral code. Before long, Roger and most of the other boys lose their respect for these forces, and violence, torture, and murder break out as the savage instinct replaces the instinct for civilization among the group.
His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.
This quotation, also from Chapter 4, explores Jack’s mental state in the aftermath of killing his first pig, another milestone in the boys’ decline into savage behavior. Jack exults in the kill and is unable to think about anything else because his mind is “crowded with memories” of the hunt. Golding explicitly connects Jack’s exhilaration with the feelings of power and superiority he experienced in killing the pig. Jack’s excitement stems not from pride at having found food and helped the group but from having “outwitted” another creature and “imposed” his will upon it. Earlier in the novel, Jack claims that hunting is important to provide meat for the group; now, it becomes clear that Jack’s obsession with hunting is due to the satisfaction it provides his primal instincts and has nothing to do with contributing to the common good.
Simon speaks these words in Chapter 5, during the meeting in which the boys consider the question of the beast. One littlun has proposed the terrifying idea that the beast may hide in the ocean during the day and emerge only at night, and the boys argue about whether the beast might actually exist. Simon, meanwhile, proposes that perhaps the beast is only the boys themselves. Although the other boys laugh off Simon’s suggestion, Simon’s words are central to Golding’s point that innate human evil exists. Simon is the first character in the novel to see the beast not as an external force but as a component of human nature. Simon does not yet fully understand his own idea, but it becomes clearer to him in Chapter 8, when he has a vision in the glade and confronts the Lord of the Flies.
“There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”
The Lord of the Flies speaks these lines to Simon in Chapter 8, during Simon’s vision in the glade. These words confirm Simon’s speculation in Chapter 5 that perhaps the beast is only the boys themselves. This idea of the evil on the island being within the boys is central to the novel’s exploration of innate human savagery. The Lord of the Flies identifies itself as the beast and acknowledges to Simon that it exists within all human beings: “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?” The creature’s grotesque language and bizarre appropriation of the boys’ slang (“I’m the reason why it’s no go”) makes the creature appear even more hideous and devilish, for he taunts Simon with the same colloquial, familiar language the boys use themselves. Simon, startled by his discovery, tries to convey it to the rest of the boys, but the evil and savagery within them boils to the surface, as they mistake him for the beast itself, set upon him, and kill him.
Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy.
These lines from the end of Chapter 12 occur near the close of the novel, after the boys encounter the naval officer, who appears as if out of nowhere to save them. When Ralph sees the officer, his sudden realization that he is safe and will be returned to civilization plunges him into a reflective despair. The rescue is not a moment of unequivocal joy, for Ralph realizes that, although he is saved from death on the island, he will never be the same. He has lost his innocence and learned about the evil that lurks within all human beings. Here, Golding explicitly connects the sources of Ralph’s despair to two of the main themes of the novel: the end of innocence and the “darkness of man’s heart,” the presence of savage instincts lurking within all human beings, even at the height of civilization.