Lord Of The Flies
All Quiet On The Western Front
An author's view of human behavior is often reflected in
his/her works. The novels "All Quiet on the Western Front"
by Erich Maria Remarque and "Lord of the Flies" by William
Golding are both examples of works that demonstrate their
author's view of man, as well his opinion of war.
Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is highly demonstrative of
Golding's opinion that society is a thin and fragile veil
that when removed shows man for what he truly is, a savage
animal. Perhaps the best demonstration of this given by
Golding is Jack's progression in the killing of the sow.
Upon first landing on the island Jack, Ralph, and Simon go
to survey their new home. Along the way, the boys have
their first encounter with the island's pigs. They see a
piglet caught in some of the plants. Quickly, Jack draws
his knife so as to kill the piglet. Instead of completing
the act, however, Jack hesitates. Golding states that, "The
pause was only long enough for them to realize the enormity
of what the downward stroke would be." Golding is
suggesting that the societal taboos placed on killing are
still ingrained within Jack. The next significant encounter
in Jack's progression is his first killing of a pig. There
is a description of a great celebration. The boys chant
"Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood." It is
clear from Golding's description of the revelry that
followed the killing that the act of the hunt provided the
boys with more than food. The action of killing another
living thing gives them pleasure. The last stage in Jack's
metamorphosis is demonstrated by the murder of the sow.
Golding describes the killing almost as a rape. He says,
"Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward wherever pig
flesh appeared ... 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." In this case it is
certain that animal savagery is displayed by the boys.
Because they have been away from organized society for such
a long time, the boys of the island have become Golding's
view of mankind, vile, destructive beasts.
Although Golding shows that the longer one is away from
society the closer in his view one becomes, the institution
of civilization does not escape his criticism. Golding
shows through many examples that those who are "civilized"
are just as prone to violence and war as those who are
isolated. The first example presented in the novel occurs
when the boys attempt to emulate the British democratic
government. The boys consider the adults who run the
government as being the best decision makers, however, it
is these "civilized" adults who started the war which has
forced the boys onto the island.
In their mimicking of adult society, one of the first
things that the boys do is establish the choir as an army
or a group of hunters. Another of the criticisms of orderly
society comes when Ralph asks for a sign from the adult
world. Ralph does receive his sign in the form of a dead
parachute, shot down in an air battle above the island.
This can be interpreted as saying that the savagery
existence in man is even shown in the so called "civilized"
world through acts of war. Golding clearly sees war as an
action of destruction caused by man because of his
inherently feral nature.
While Golding views man as a brutal creature whose vile
traits are brought out by isolation from society,
Remarque's " All Quiet on the Western Front" displays a
remarkably contrasting opinion of humanity. Where Golding's
characters become increasingly more sadistic when placed in
a difficult circumstance, those of Remarque manage to
actually grow more caring and develop a feeling of
comradeship. It is clear that despite the fact that
Remarque's main character and narrator, Paul Bumer, is
taking part in a war and killing others, he is not a brutal
disgusting creature. Even on the front, where Paul is in
danger of losing his life, he acts in a way directly
contrasting Golding's view of man as a vicious hunter. Paul
is faced with a French soldier who he is to throw a grenade
at. Upon seeing his face, however, Paul hesitates to toss
the lethal weapon, as he now recognizes that this soldier
is a person probably much like himself.
This is obviously against Golding's opinion. In the two
murders that occur in Lord of the Flies, those of Piggy and
Simon, the killers do not care about what they are doing as
they are caught up in the intense feeling of the kill.
Another example of Remarque's view of man is the reaction
of Paul to the Russian soldiers that have been captured. He
gives them cigarettes and food. He deeply sympathizes with
their situation despite being their enemy in name. This is
again an act of kindness and uncalled for altruism,
something directly against Golding's perceptions.
As Remarque's views of the nature of man differ from
Golding, so does his opinion about war. Unlike Golding, who
feels that war is a result of man's natural cruelty and
innate desire to hurt others, Remarque is of the opinion
that wars result because of a few people in power, not all
of humanity. At one point in " All Quiet on the Western
Front", one of the characters, Albert Kropp, suggests that
"a deceleration of war should be a popular festival with
entrance tickets and bands, like a bull fight. Then in the
arena the ministers and generals of the two countries,
dressed in bathing drawers and armed with clubs, can have
it out among themselves." This opinion is reflective of
Remarque's own. While Golding concentrates only on the
underlying causes of war, Remarque goes on to explain its
horrors, as his is an anti-war novel. Remarque frequently
is pointing out the atrocities of war. While there are
countless examples of this in the novel two of the most
striking are the descriptions of the dying horses and one
of the French soldiers. The description that Remarque uses
to convey the image of the dying horses is a very vivid one
intended to provoke a sense of disgust in the reader. He
states, "The belly of one is ripped open, the guts trail
out. He becomes tangled in them and falls, then he stands
up again." Remarque hopes that the anguish of the horses,
who were in no way responsible for their situation, will
earn the reader's sympathy. The equally graphic picture of
the dying French soldier is also intended to show the
reader some of the horror of war. Remarque says, "... a
blow form a spade cleaves through his face. A second sees
it and tries to run farther, a bayonet jabs into his back."
Remarque and Golding have differing opinions on human
nature as well as war. Golding, through the actions of his
characters, attempts to illustrate that under chaotic
circumstances, removed from normal society, man reverts to
what his nature deems him to be, a destructive creature.
Remarque's characters, on the other hand, manage to show
compassion and humane treatment of others despite being
thrust into a situation more terrible than that of
Golding's characters. Where Golding feels war is a result
of humankind's vile nature, Remarque sees it as an evil
brought about by only a select few.
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