The Inner Beast
Every human being possesses a conscience. However, many people lack the knowledge regarding the makeup of their inner voices. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical personality theory claims that three parts construct one’s conscience: the Id, Ego, and Superego. The Id represents the impulsive part of our psyche which responds directly, and immediately, to the instincts. Coupled with the the Id, the Ego forms the decision-making component of personality. Ideally, the ego works by reason, whereas the id is chaotic and unreasonable. The Superego incorporates the values, and morals, of society. In his modernist novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding articulates the story of a group of adolescent British boys marooned on a deserted island. Through the three main characters—the dangerous and wild Jack Merridew, the strong and confident Ralph, and the wise and compassionate Simon—Golding utilizes the Freudian conscience allegory. The more time the boys spend away from civilization and rules altogether, Golding unveils the essence of the Id (Jack), Ego (Ralph), and the Superego (Simon) to highlight the constant struggle between maintaining civilization, or falling into the pit of savagery.
Depicted as “ugly without silliness… With light blue eyes, frustrated now, and ready to turn to anger”, Jack Merridew, Golding’s representation of the Id and dictator of the choir, possesses a ghastly gaze, and longs to reign as chief of the tribe (Golding 20). Throughout the novel, Jack repeatedly demonstrates his desire of hunting, and killing, a pig over all other aspects of responsibility and rescue. Standing on the peak of the mountain, home to the signal fire, Ralph infuriatingly exclaims to Jack, “You talk. But you can’t even build huts—then you go off hunting and let out the fire—” (Golding 71). Ignorant, Jack gives into his urges in search of instant gratification in his lust for blood, and carelessly lets the fire go out. Clouding his ability to focus on the future, his obsession with hunting causes him to stray from the desired end goal:to get off the island. While Ralph spots a nearby ship, Jack puts his hunting above the benefit of the tribe and demonstrates how he, as the Id, does as he pleases without a thought to the consequences of his actions, and therefore the fire dies. The longer Jack resides on the island, his methods of attaining leadership shift from civilized to bloody and aggressive. This barbarism Jack displays for his hunting reaches new heights with the death of a sow. Stumbling through the jungle, Jack and his pack of followers encounter a gathering of pigs, and set their sights on the largest one—a mother sow. After a grueling chase, the boys murder the pig in a brutal manner, displaying their savagery and lust for blood.
“She squealed and buckled and the air was full of blood and terror. Roger prodded with his spear whenever pig flesh appeared. Jack was on top, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her” (Golding 135).
Cruel and merciless, Jack, and Roger, his right hand man, demonstrate the boundlessness of their savagery that runs wild on the island through the bloody murder of the helpless sow. Essentially, Golding portrays the murder as a rape through his verb choices, and thus illustrates the desire Jack and his pack possess to exert their brute force over another. However, the fact that Jack kills the sow in such a gruesome, and gory, way represents a more disturbing factor itself. From marching on the beach as the head of a choir group, to the savage execution of an innocent being, Jack reveals a motive for killing beyond just the necessity for food. Stranded on an island without rules or adults, the Id runs wild, and Jack’s longing desire for death and blood serves to back Golding’s point that without rules, savagery reigns over, and destroys, civilization.
Paying the role of the Ego, Ralph, with “his size, and attractive appearance”, finds himself elected as the chief of the group in the beginning of the story (Golding 22). Throughout their stay, Ralph attempts to rule in a fair and civilized manner. However, with the Id whispering in his ear and forces of chaos press down on the boys from all sides, Ralph’s plans go astray, and he finds himself struggling to maintain civility within the group. During the second assembly, Ralph suggests an idea for rescue: a large signal fire on top of the mountain. “If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire” (Golding 38). Immediately, all the boys obey their newfound leader and work to assemble a fire. Ralph’s plan benefits all the boys in an attempt to establish a rescue from the island, yet Jack’s hunger for hunting ruins Ralph’s plan. Coupled with the construction of a fire, Ralph inaugurates the establishment of shelters, or huts, in order to protect the boys from harsh weather conditions. “‘If it rains like when we dropped in we’ll need shelters all right…So we need shelters as a sort of—’ ‘Home'” (Golding 52). Ralph reveals the need for shelters, and Jack chimes in, both of them recognizing their value. Ralph once again focuses on the tribe’s benefit, but his plan falls apart due to the lack of help he and Simon receive when assembling the huts. Grounded on the island, Ralph represents the only one generating ideas for rescue and survival from the weather, and with the lack of strength the newfound rules on the island possess, the boys find little motivation in attending to them. Therefore, Golding portrays the disintegration that civilization and order face early on in the novel.
Golding utilizes his character of Simon, a “skinny, vivid little boy” (Golding 24), to portray kindness and innate goodness. During the rising action of the novel, Simon benevolently retrieves Piggy’s glasses when Jack knocks them off of Piggy’s face. Advancing toward Piggy, Jack
“smacked Piggy’s head. Piggy’s glasses flew off and tinkled on the rocks… he went crouching and feeling over the rocks but Simon, who got there first, found them for him” (Golding 71).
Gathering Piggy’s glasses for him represents such a simple act; one may miss the true kindness the action possesses. While Jack bullies Piggy, the only one to step up and help is Simon. Standing around, all the other boys observe as Jack releases his menace and built up savagery on a weaker boy. Simon picks up Piggy’s glass because he knows that doing so represents the right act.
After the killing of the first pig, Jack gifts all the boys with meat, except Piggy, and Simon sacrifices his portion for Piggy. “‘Aren’t I having none?'” questions Piggy, “Simon wiped his mouth and shoved his piece of meat over the rocks to Piggy, who grabbed it” (Golding 73-74). Once again, Simon helps Piggy, and expresses his generosity toward others. Yet, Piggy does not represent the only one Simon portrays many kind and unselfish deeds toward. In once scene, Simon walks through the forest when interrupted by littluns.
Charitably, he then plucks fruit for the for the smaller kids.
“Here the littluns who had run after him caught up with him… Simon found for them the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands” (Golding 56).
Although the littluns bother Simon on his stroll, he decided to help them, displaying morally good intentions for the benefit of others, a trait of the Superego. As one with the ability to reach the fruit, Simon utilizes his height to help the small, incapable children; assisting those who cannot aid themselves. Simon does not harm or ignore the littluns such as other boys, whose actions represent where the struggle between civilization and savagery exists. While Simon maintains a dignified composure and helps the littluns instead of tormenting them, his peers, Roger and Maurice, do the opposite by walking “through the castles, kicking them over, burying flowers, scattering the chosen stones. Maurice followed, laughing, and added to the destruction” (Golding 60). Immediately, many boys take to savagery after the first few days on the island, while Simon maintains a dignified composure and helps littluns instead of harassing them. Simon’s repeated, innately good and genuine actions depict civilization in its purest form: valuing the need of others above one’s own.
As the Superego, Simon struggles to voice his opinions while shrouded in the shadows manifested by the Id and Ego. In Freud’s theory, the Ego and Superego may reach the same conclusions; however, the reasoning to arrive at those conclusions often differ. The Ego draws conclusions depending on the opinions of others and those of society, whereas the Superego reaches the same verdict based upon morals. As Simon attempts to act as a good samaritan and help others, the lack of guidelines and laws allow Jack, and Ralph, to further express their true desires without any influence. During the rising action of the novel, the boys mistake Simon as the beast who roams and haunts the island, and proceed to pummel and thrash at him in an animalistic manner with their hands and teeth until his death. “At once the crowd surged after it, leapt onto the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws” (Golding 153). Simon succumbs to a savage death committed by all the boys, including Ralph and Piggy. With an island inhabiting children who lack rules, Jack and his maliciousness thrive and influence all the other boys, illuminating how savagery exists in even the most civilized. Hence Simon’s brave proposition that everyone possesses an inner beast earlier on in the novel. “‘Maybe’ he said hesitantly, ‘maybe there is a beast… What I mean is … maybe it’s only us'” (Golding 89). Simon ventures to the conclusion that the beast rests within everyone; it represents savagery that every boy possesses. Up until his death, all the boys had not yet crossed the line into complete savagery, yet once Simon dies, the morality that he represents flies out the window and the boys are left to face barbaricness without the balance that the Superego provides. Through Simon’s death involving all of the boys, Golding displays the battle savagery and civilization wage within every being and its outcome without the presence of rules.
The consequences of the lack of rules once again present themselves in the climax of the novel where Jack and Roger attempt to kill Ralph through a fire. “They had smoked him out and set the island on fire” (Golding 197). With the disappearance of all common sense and good judgement—portrayed through Simon—Jack and Roger set the island they are stranded on ablaze. Not only do they determinedly pursue the death of Ralph in a savage manner, but in valuing his death enough to destroy their living environment, they illuminate the fact that they no longer hold ration or logic, and thus no longer mirror any part of civilization. By the resolution of the novel, the Id corrupts all the boys and turns them into savages as shown through their participation in Ralph’s death.
The Freudian allegory of the Id, Ego, and Superego illustrated through Jack, Ralph and Simon all contribute to Golding’s message of the struggle between savagery and civilization. With the absence of rules, Jack, as the Id, gains many followers while Ralph, as the Ego, tries to maintain their previously civilized lifestyle. As the boys wither under the thought of a beast lurking on the island, Simon, as the Superego, reasonably voices the concept that the beast exists within all the boys as a form of savagery. His sacrificial death validates the savagery that rages within all and the war it wages with civilization. As shown through the main characters in Lord of the Flies, humans stand oblivious to the complexity of their subconscious and the roles it plays in their daily lives.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Capricorn Books, 1954. Print.