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Regressive Instinct & Civilization in Lord of the Flies

The essay seeks to delve into the realm of unconscious mind to bring out the relation between truth & civilization in Golding's novel.



The characters in Golding?s Lord of the Flies are a group of schoolboys, stamped through with Britishness like seaside rock, educated by public schools in a system designed to overwhelm an empire and uses the slang and jargon common to their time. Since Golding is describing a community of children with adult readers in mind, the credibility of the characters is a prerequisite. In addition, they have to be made convincing in an imaginary situation, and this is Golding?s particular achievement-Golding has apparently chosen a conventional technique of isolating people in an island. This has enabled him to examine how human beings behave away from the influences of civilization and choosing only children as characters, Golding further complicates his tusk, since the children are as adults are. The novel presents four boys as major characters-Ralph, Jack, Piggy and Simon. At the beginning of our acquaintance with each of the characters we are given certain hints about them, and then with the development of the novel, the boys become a representative of types. Regressive instinct devours the civilized codes in all of them ? civilization denotes their ?authoritative morality? within. But in each, the interplay of withering codes and conflict manifests with respect to their psychic potential. Ralph represents the common sense of the individual; Piggy, the sense of reasoning; Jack, the forceful rush of instinctive domination; and Simon, a silent truth-seeker. In their growing psyche these elements are shown in perfect limitation, as they aught to be. It would be better to view the facets of the novel from Simon?s perspective. Simon?s quest places the extreme ranges of mind of the other characters in a woven perspective. In fact, whether it is child psychology, or uninhibition or regressive instinct that makes the fable-structure a complete novel of times, could also be focussed.
The character of Simon is presented in three phases in the novel : initially Simon?s attitude and nature; then with the complication of the plot, Simon?s increasing importance and his relation with nature and above all relation to his own self; and lastly his death, the climax of the novel, which plays a pivotal role in the novel.
In the third chapter Huts on the Beach, Golding explores the distinction of Simon and the differences between the boys. Both Ralph and Jack, who consider Simon faintly crazy are also worlds apart from him. Simon acts as a peace-maker between Jack and Piggy; he is to be seen suffering the little children to come to him and getting them fruits. He is timid, his movements are silent and he withdraws himself from the realm of hot exchanges; and from these initial exposition one can see easily enough what Golding meant by calling Simon a ?saint? even a ?Christ-like? figure. But what brings Simon alive and makes the passages where he is by himself among the finest things in the books, is the quality of the imagination that goes into creating his particualr sensibility. He is in fact, not so much a character in the sense that the other boys are, but the most inclusive sensibility among the children at this stage.
The presentation of Simon in this chapter strikes us with considerable force, as Simon moves through the jungle. As he moves we find the forest is alien to man and how its fecundity is rooted in dissolution. Simon is the first child, to register fully, what the island and its jungle are like in themselves. The qualities that were present in Ralph?s day-dreaming at the finding of the conch, are fully realised in Simon. On the other hand, in solitary communication with nature, he taps Jack?s sensitivity to the creepy as well as the beautiful. But he is outside the hunter mentality, the leader mentality, outside even himself-like Meursault is Albert Camus? The Outsider. He exists in terms of his sensitivity to what is outside him. This allows him to know comprehensively. He not only registers the heat, the urgency, the riot, the dampness and decay; he also registers the cool mysterious submergence of the forest in darkness, the pure beauty and fragrance of starlight and nightflower, the peace. Finally he not only registers both, but accepts them equally, as two parts of the same reality. It is these qualities of acceptance and inclusion that give us the ?Simon-ness? of Simon.
From Chapter Five onwards, Simon gains importance along with the disintegration and brutal degeneration of the boys. Chapter Five, Beast from Water presents the superstition which leads to the inward fear which spark off savagery. In this chapter the worst contempt of the meeting, however, is reserved for Simon, who thinks that there may be a Beast that is not any kind of animal : ?What I mean is?may be it?s only us?. But Simon is howled down even more than Piggy; and when the vote comes to be taken Ralph is forced to realize that fear cannot be dispelled by voting. And only Simon starts his quest which continues as long as he lives.
In Simon, Golding dramatised ?an atavastic quest? through darkness. The mythopoeia of a beast is central in Lord of the Files. It is dramatised in the crucial confrontation scene in the Chapter Eight, Gift of the Darkness, where two apparently irreconciliable views of one situation are brought slap up against each other. The meaning of the fable ultimately depends on the meaning of the beast, the creature which haunts the children?s imagination and which Jack hunts and tries to propitiate with a totemic beast. Only Simon cannot believe in ?a beast with claws that scratched, that sat on mountain top, that left no tracks and yet was not fast enough to catch Samneric?. Simon?s quest then, is the fable?s major pursuit, for he is used as a mouthpiece for what Golding, in conversation, he called ?one of the conditions of existence, this aweful thing?. Simon, the strange visionary child, encounters and recognises the beast. In the confrontation scene he recognises his own capacity for evil as well as his ability to act without evil. He is thus able to realise the dead parchutist and try to tell the boys below about ?mankind?s essential illness?. (Chapter Five) : ?Whenever Simon thought of the beast, there arose before his inward sight the pictures of a human at once heroic and sick? (Chapter Six). The confrontation scene (Chapter Eight) brings about a single crystallisation of the fable?s total structure, since it brings together the concepts of ?evil-and-innocence?.
At the heart of the fable?s mythopoeia is the visual hieroglyphic or symbol of the severed Head of the pig to which Simon turns in distaste and awe, and from which he first tries to escape. Grinning cynically, its mouth gaping and its eyes half-closed, the Head is placed on a rock before Simon?s ?cabin-island?. What Simon ?sees? is the Lord of the Files, Baal-Zebub, the Evil. The title of the book tells us we have reached its heart with Simon?s quest.
Simon broods before the totemic sow?s head. The pig?s head speaks in ?the voice of a school master? and delivers ?something very much like sermon to the boy?. It insists that the island is corrupt and all is lost and shifting by the ironic motif of ?fun? into schoolboy language the Head assures him : ?We are going to have fun on this island? even though ?everything? is ?a bad business?. Such counseling of acceptance of evil is ?the infinite cynicism of adult life?, the cynicism of Simon?s conscious mind, the cynicism that can ignore even ?the indignity of being spiked on a stick?, the cynicism that ?grins? at the obscenities that even ?the butterflies must desert?.
But this Lord of the Dung is Simon : the head that counsels acceptance is his own strategic consciousness. These voices only tell him what he already knows. Evil exists but not a Beast. In spite of hallucination, he knows quite clearly that he ?sees? not the Beast, but ?Pig?s? head on the stick?. Speaking in schoolboy language, the Lord?s head has ?half-shut eyes? and Simon keeps ?his eyes shut, then sheltered them with his hand?, so that his vision is partial. He ?sees? things ?without definition and illusively? behind a ?luminous veil?. Simon feels his own savagery and ?at last?.gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes?. It is himself he is looking at and submits to the terror of his own evil and penetrates his own evil. Returning from non-being, to do something he discovered and with releasing the figure ?from the rocks and the wind?s indignity?, he frees himself.
In the Ninth chapter, both the ?View? and the ?Death? of its title are Simon?s; he climbs the mountain and goes down to the others to tell them that the Beast is ?harmless and horrible? because ?What else is there to do?? So Simon moves to lay rest the ?history? of man?s inhumanity and falls amidst the hysteric frenzy to be mistaken for the Beast, they ?do him in? and ?leapt on the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore?.
Thus, Simon is a life as well as a symbol. Truth becomes the first casualty and Simon?s struggle and fate bring him with the long tradition of truth-seekers. Simon?s attempt to tell the truth synchronises with his death. Golding gives an epic dimension to Simon?s death when the entire elemental nature pays a tribute to Simon-the infinite dark sky, ceaseless waves of eternal sea, the thunder and rain. The whole vision of sea-burial reflects nature?s glorification of a ?crucified martyr? and places the ?saint? to a cosmic perspective.
The necessity of Simon?s character in Lord of the Files is ideographically suggested by Golding. If seen as a ?moral fable?, Simon is a ?saint? ? Golding?s term for the boy ? precisely because he tries to know comprehensively and inclusively; he possesses a quality of imagination which forces an ?ancient, inescapable recognition?. If seen as a ?social and political fable?, Simon is a ?truth-seeker? gripped by the ?political nightmare of authoritarianism ?Charismatic? and who is eventually murdered because a truth-seeker has no place in the modern world and becomes a ?victim of totalitarian but chery?. If seen as a ?religious fable?, Simon is a ?martyr?; Golding admits in ?theological terms? that man is a ?fallen being? and ?is gripped by original sin? and thus Simon?s ?Edenic island also turns into a fiery hell?.
To add a critic?s view who places the fable in a mythic frame will not be irrelevant; he suggests, ?Simon is a ritual hero, who is metaphorically swallowed by a serpent or dragon ?whose belly is the world, he undergoes a symbolic death in order to gain the elixir to revitalize his stricken society, and returns with his knowledge to the timid world as a redeemer?. The certainty of truth is incomprehensible to the rest. Truth-seekers are always walled up within an uncertain-certainty.

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