The Id, the Ego and the Superego

May 1, 2017

Society is a very constricting force in this world. It causes people to conform to the norms and forces them to abide by the rules and regulations set in place. Ideals, such as etiquette and manners begin to develop and when an undesirable behavior is expressed from an individual, they are judged. The influence of society is very powerful and it could cause both a positive and negative effect on the human mind. However, when society is stripped away the truth behind human nature’s true behavior reveals itself. In the novel, Lord of the Flies, written by author William Golding, the reader can use the Freud’s theory as a lens to view Golding’s characters, which follows the premise that humans are innately barbaric in nature without society.

In the beginning of the novel, as Jack first arrives at the island stranded, he remains composed and civilized. However, as the novel progresses, he begins to break free of the constraints of civilizations and has very little in the way of conscience. In the article “Id, Ego and Superego” written by Saul McLeod, and along with the novel, both explain what the id truly represents. In the article, it deems the id as, “The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality” (McLeod para. 5). This shows that the id is the more primal and instinctual part of the mind that immediately wants to satisfy its desires in order to gain pleasure. If it does not obtain that pleasure, it creates tension within the human mind, an “unpleasure” of sorts, which causes to grow into something else. Furthermore, the id’s desire is more infantile as it urgently wants its impulses to be fulfilled, and it is based on primary process thinking, which most often is irrational, illogical, primitive and many times unrealistic. In the novel, Jack soon reverts back to what could almost resemble the primal versions of humans as shown in this line, “He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling” (Golding 192). This line shows the barbaric and wild-like persona that Jack reveals, as he becomes obsessed with hunting. Furthermore, at first it was to hunt for necessity, but quickly it became to hunt for pleasure.  In one of his hunts, Jack kills and hunts down a sow who has just given birth. His bloodlust in the scene is very played out as the sow’s innocence is exaggerated as she was a mother along with Golding’s description of the scene as well, “he spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a highpitched scream” (Golding 424). Many even compares this to a rape scene as the way the event unfolded and the sensory words that Golding applied as well. This truly relates back to the id, as the id has natural primal and instinctual drive to seek pleasure for oneself without any thought or morals, and rape is considered a willful action of forcing one’s will against another in order to please one’s desires. As the novel continues, he soon grows in power and reigns terror over the other boys, especially those representing the ego and superego,  following Golding’s premise in which is that if the id is left unchecked it leads to destruction. 

In both the article and in the novel, the superego is represented by Piggy and Simon. As Piggy represents the logical and rational part of the superego while Simon represents the sympathetic and compassionate part of the superego.The article states that the superego’s function is “to control the id's impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection” (McLeod para. 20). The superego is capable of keeping the id in check, as it is capable of influencing the ego. If the ego gives into the will of the id, then the superego might punish the ego by inflicting the feeling of guilt. Additionally, the superego also uses reason and empathy to control the will of the id. In the beginning of the novel, Piggy quickly makes calculated decisions and bases everything on logic, and this can be seen in the line where he refers to the beastie, “I know there isn't no beast?not with claws and all that, I mean?but I know there isn't no fear, either” (Golding 256). This shows that Piggy is the rational and reasonable one. While all the other boys quickly believe in the tale of the beast, Piggy fights off this fear with logic. Furthermore, his reasoning and common sense are also what keeps Ralph in check most of the time, as many times Ralph has wandered off the path and got lost in what is the right thing to do. Simon is also the other half of the superego, as he is both a caring and understanding figure on the island. When they first get stranded, Simon tends to the little ones and made them feel better. Additionally, he had enough understanding—along with Piggy— to realize that the beast of their superstition is not real as shown in this line, “However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick” (Golding 320). Simon believes that they truly need to fear is the beast within themselves. This comes back to play when there really was no physical beast, but an internal beast in the boys themselves. Which once again brings back Golding’s idea of the human nature as naturally wicked.

In both the article and the novel, Ralph is the ego as he is the one maintaining the superego and id. In the article the ego’s function is to, “mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world” and it does this by, “operates according to the reality principle, working out realistic ways of satisfying the id’s demands, often compromising or postponing satisfaction to avoid negative consequences of society” (McLeod para. 15-16). That the ego acts as a mediator between the unreal desires of the id and the constraining rules of society as well as the high standard superego. The ego wants to satisfy the desires of the id but it does not want to be harmed or feel any pain as a result of satisfying the id. This is much like Ralph throughout the novel. Jack and Piggy argue and fight, this then leads Ralph to resolve each issue. However, most of the time, Jack, or the id, succeeds which shows that the ego will typically please the id’s urges, rather than listen to the superego. Ralph is also the ego as he attempts to make the right decisions, but many times he fails. This represents that he is most like the everyday man and that the ego does not always know what the right or wrong thing to do is as its only desire is to please the id without harming itself. However, in the case in which Jack steals Piggy’s glasses, Ralph says, “‘You pinched Piggy's specs,’ said Ralph, breathlessly. ‘You've got to give them back.’… ‘Didn't you hear the conch? You played a dirty trick?we'd have given you fire if you'd asked for it’” (Golding 557). In this case, Ralph is depicted as the ego, trying to appeases the id, while also following the superego rules. Ralph knows that stealing Piggy’s glasses is wrong in which he confronts Jack. Additionally, he tries to satisfy the id by saying he would have shared the fire. However, sadly the id, Jack, grew to power and ultimately destroyed both superegos, Simon and Piggy, and wanted to kill the ego as well. This conflict on the island between each four represents the struggle of the human nature on a more external level, as each character clashed with each other, much like the id, superego and ego conflict with each other. Furthermore, it shows that when society is stripped away, and there is nothing to keep the id under control, havoc breaks free and runs amok, as seen in the ending of novel when the entire island is set on fire by Jack.
Throughout the novel, Golding’s belief that the human nature is innately wicked is shown through the evolution and change of his characters while looking through with the psychoanalytic lens of Freud’s theory along with the removal of society. Human nature is still a labyrinthine idea, as no humans are the same, meaning one cannot base off anything from a single individual. Society is a very over bearing factor in many people’s lives and sometimes it causes people to fit into the mold that society creates, even if it means cutting out some bits. Which further then enshrouds the true colors of mankind behind an opaque curtain. Whether humans are innately savages and pounce to satisfy their desires or the opposite is completely up to one’s own philosophy.



Works Cited
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. NY, NY, Spark Publishing, 2014.

McLeod, Saul. “Id, Ego and Superego.” Id Ego Superego | Simply Psychology, 1 Jan.    1970,







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