William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies looks closely at how a lack of authority results in the fall of man. When English school boys are left to govern themselves on a deserted island, their seemingly perfect civilization begins to disintegrate as the evils of man are exposed. Golding wrote Lord of the Flies to prove that without some method of authority or civilization, man descends into savagery.
Man’s desire for power, Golding suggests, plants the seed for his ultimate ruin. The respect humans have for authority leads to their want for it. David Spitz, in his article for the Antioch the Review says that “one of the many questions that have plagued political thinkers throughout the ages is the question of the legitimacy of power” (Spitz 24). Humans question the legitimacy of power, and their pursuit for that legitimacy stems from their pursuit of authority. Officials such as police officers, tax collectors, and various others who have authority do not make others obey them simply because the public is persuaded by “[their] superior wealth or mighty intelligence” (Spitz). It is instead because, Spitz remarks, these officials’ authority is recognized. Humans acknowledge power when they see it and subsequently respect it. Who has the right to hold and orchestrate power is something up to debate, which brings back the question of the validity of who stands and kneels in the “ever-existing pyramids of power” (Spitz 24). Man desires both power to reign over them and to have control of that power themselves. But when this controlled civility is shattered due to pride, so is reason and harmony within the society. No matter whom the authority is given from, when it is rejected negative events can transpire. When the want to govern instead of be governed comes out, man looks inside himself for guidance and finds savagery and chaos-as the youths do in Lord of the Flies (Spitz 26). This kind of descent is inevitable because when the rational links holding a society together break, what is left inside the individuals is what is left to build on in terms of a society. But what Golding suggests is inside is a force much darker than many choose to believe. The theme of an underlying evil is one that is heavily explored in the novel. To sum, man desires power; both to be governed by it and to have it. it is wanted. However, when a definitive, concise form of civilization and power is not present, man turns chaotic and desires to have the power for themselves. While many would like to think humans would be well off and civil, in reality they would ultimately be overrun by their own desires and passions, proving that man is innately evil in nature.
Once in power, humans can become manipulative and influence the actions of others. When a society is formed, a natural pyramid of power is constructed among individuals, as humans desire the presence of authority and some method of control. Writer Richard Williams of the University of Chicago offers the idea that man shares the common goal of “structuring social relations that can best be characterized as a dominance hierarchy” (Williams 11). A study of a group of six boys aged twelve to thirteen was conducted at a summer camp over the course of five weeks. The boys selected for the ‘camp’ were all from North Central America, and shared the characteristics of being Caucasian, Protestant, economically stable and physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Their strengths in these fields, however, varied. Over the course of the study it was found that the boys naturally created, within themselves, a sort of balanced society, with some acting as leaders and others as followers. Each boy proved to play a role within the group, with the so labeled ‘Alpha’ boy being the individual that took the most control within the group. He also was voted amongst the others as being the most charismatic, athletic, witty, confident, and popular. The ‘Omega’ of the group was the most kind