The Conflict Between Innate Evil and Good in Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Topics: Moral

Authors of thematic literature seriously attempt to observe and record life in order to reveal some truth or some common characteristic of life. Thematic literature aims to uncover as» parts of a common human existence, and in the discussion of a common human existence, universal truths, such as the innate presence of both evil and good in human beings, have been revealed in separate works of literature. The observations made in assorted literature texts converge in an attempt to answer the timeless question: what is the definition of being distinctly human? Thus, various writings pose a similar insight: humans are characterized by their struggle against their innate darkness.

This natural evil is often emphasized by the presence of physical monsters. Although monsters stimulate humans‘ inner darknesses and inner monsters, those who succumb to their heart of darkness fail, while those who curb innate evil are successful.

In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, an observation of the presence of innate evil and good is made in humans’ purest form: in the form of young boys stranded on an island, free from society.

This freedom from the social constraints and laws of society allows the boys to clearly feel the internal battle between their natural instincts towards barbarism versus their natural instincts towards morality. When presented with a threat of a monster, the boys who submit and become monsters themselves fail as humans Jack Merridew’s descent into savagery, for instance, results from his surrender to the real monster of being stranded on the island as well as to the “snake-thing” or “beastie” the boys are afraid of.

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With the superficial excuse of needing meat, Jack’s barbaric nature is seen surfacing when he tries “to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up”.

His bestial tendency has become even more dominant when he, after killing a pig, “held up the head and jammed the soft throat down on the pointed end of the stick which pierced through into the mouth” and “spoke loudly. ‘This head is for the beast. It’s a gift,” (136-137). Jack‘s complete resignation to his innate evil peaks when, under his chieftainship, he and his “savages” have murdered Simon and Piggy. In contrast, Ralph is more successful in his attempts to curb his inner savage. While Jack attempts to survive by killing pigs, Ralph attempts to survive by building a signal fire. Ralph clearly chooses his natural tendency towards good when although “They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought,” he says, “‘Well, we won’t be painted…because we aren’t savages,” Because Ralph battles his innate brutality and in- stead chooses morality, he successfully is able to control his inner monster;

However, due to his surrender to his instinctual darkness, Jack himself becomes a monster. Therefore, due to Ralph’s attempt to purposely choose his natural goodness, he is a victorious example of the definition of being human. Joseph Conrad‘s novel, Heart of Darkness, examines the naturally occurring conflict between good and evil present in human beings as well. Similar to the boys in Lord of the Flies, the two main characters of Heart of Darkness, Kurtz, and Marlow, are removed from civilized society. It is in the deep interior of Africa, unruled by social norms of civilization, where each man’s internal clash and defining moments occur. Kurtz, upon entering Africa, is met with the hostile African natives, whom he sees as savages and monsters, and a harsh climate. However, in his separation from society and integration into Africa, Kurtz must deal with the internal duel between his natural goodness, promoted by society, and his instinctual savagery, stimulated by both the African natives and the setting.

Nevertheless, he gives into his inner monster, raiding multiple villages in search for ivory and placing the heads of rebel natives on stakes outside his house, Kurtz has succumbed to his innate evil so completely that about Marlow says, “his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad,” (Conrad 61). In contrast, Marlow has more success in his internal war. He is able to leave Africa, whereas Kurtz surrendered to his innate evil and died there. It is Marlow’s attempted adherence to morality and innate goodness, such as when he “hate[s], detest[s], can’t bear a lie”, shares his food with a starving native, and expresses shock and Kurtz’s treatment of the natives, that allows him to survive both his own natural barbarism and that of his setting. Marlow‘s struggle against his inner savage defines him as a human; Kurtz’s surrender to his innate evil de- fines him as a monster Yann Martel’s Life ofPi discusses the same topic as Lord the Flies and Heart ofDark- ness: the dilemma between innate evil and good.

In Life ofPi, Pi Patel and the survivors of the sinking of the ship are separated from society and its rules that aid in curbing humans’ natural darkness. Once again, due to this separation, the innate conflict between evil and good is made clear. Those who yield to their natural monstrosity do indeed become monsters; those who fight their instinctual darkness are the ones who are successfully defined as human. In the novel, faced with the monstrous reality of being shipwrecked out at sea, the cook completely surrenders to his inner evil and is completely transformed into a “‘selfish monster’”. When he is on the lifeboat with the other survivors, he commits completely savage and monstrous acts: he cuts off the sailor’s leg to be used as bait, commits cannibalism by eating the sailor’s flesh, and even murders Pi’s mother. The cook’s progression into monstrosity and evil is so complete that Pi’s mother can only exclaim, “‘You monster! You monster!” (307).

It is the cook’s submission to his bestiality that fails him as a human being; he dies knowing that “‘he had gone too far, even by his bestial standards. In contrast, Pi does not completely yield to his innate immorality, but instead clings to as much natural goodness as he can through religion. However, Pi does acknowledge the battle between evil and good within him: “‘[The cook] was such an evil man, Worse still, he met evil in me – selfishness, anger, ruthlessness,”. Nevertheless, because Pi “turn[s] to God” and decides to live with his experiences while focusing on his religion and goodness, he is a triumphant human being, defined by his attempts to curb his own inner monster and promote his innate goodness, Lord of the Flies, Heart of darkness, and Life o/Pi structure the theme of innate evil and good present within all human beings, but highlighted when isolated from society Successful human beings are those who curb their inner darkness, while failed human beings are those who succumb to their bestial nature and become monsters themselves.

This leads to the insight that human beings are defined by their struggle against instinctual immorality. Because these three novels, as well as other pieces of literature such as Dc Faustus, discuss the struggle against the tendency towards evil and monstrosity, this struggle is a part of the common human experience. This struggle and common human experience is relevant to all because it is a shared human exist tence: thus, at some time, every human being will experience the battle of contending with natural darkness. Due to the universal truth of the presence of this natural conflict between evil and good, these works of literature remind humanity to consciously fight against their inner monsters.

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The Conflict Between Innate Evil and Good in Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. (2023, Feb 17). Retrieved from

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