Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by perceived danger, evil or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined. People’s daily lives are filled with various types and levels of fears. Each person deals with his fear in his own way due to varying life experiences and personalities. Lord of the Flies by William Golding establishes a small society of British boys on an isolated island. However, the fear towards the “beast” which is inside of everyone gradually dominates the boys and crushes them down. The beast means different things to each person. Knowing what the boys’ fears are and how they react to them is instrumental in understanding the impact of fear on people within Lord of the Flies.
One of the characters Simon is a physically weak, timid, and compassionate boy who shows innate goodness through his actions. He, however, does not show any fear toward the beast. Simon understands that fear is a useless and dangerous emotion and implies that the beasts are actually the boys themselves early in the book. “Maybe there is a beast…... What I mean is… maybe it’s only us” (Golding, 109). Simon leads to an equal but opposite conclusion that the boys should not be afraid of their friends but should be aware of themselves, compared to Piggy’s more rational and external thoughts. Simon is the only one who realizes that the beast is the dark side of boy’s nature in the quote, “Simon, walking in front of Ralph, … However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick” (Golding, 128), and insists on exploring the truth of the beast in the jungle to prove that there is nothing to be afraid of. Nevertheless, Simon’s wisdom does not render him immune from the beast’s effect. “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill… You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?” (Golding, 182) Simon expresses his fear that the imagined beast will finally change the boys into the beasts in his hallucination. After he fulfills his destiny of seeking the truth of beast on the top of the mountain, he is unable to share it, because no one is rational enough or wants to listen to him. Simon’s fear comes true, and he finally dies as a result.
Another character Ralph, who serves as the leader of the group, has fears that are more practical than that of others. While everyone else is thrilled with being free, away from parents and school, he is the only one who feels anxious about being isolated from the adult’s world and the existing civilization. Unlike Jack, he does not want to spend the rest of his life on the island. Ralph tries to behave like an adult and works diligently to keep the boys’ focus on the hope of rescue through building the huts, setting up the fire, and living a civilized life. Other than being afraid of never getting off the island, his other fear is that Jack’s increasing power would undermine the community. “And you shut up! Who are you, anyway?... You can’t hunt” (Golding 112). Jack questions Ralph openly and breaks down the rules they had set up together. The contagious savagery that started with Jack eventually overwhelms and infects the whole group. The conch does not work; the fire is not lit; the boys behave like barbarous animals. As Ralph states, “Cos I had some sense” (Golding, 239), he is the only civilized and rational boy but ends up being hunted by the savages. His fear of turning into one of them helps him keep a clear head.
Lastly, Jack, who is a representation of all mankind’s immorality and violence, is afraid of being powerless, using the littluns’ fear of the beast to turn everyone into savages. He is unwilling to submit to Ralph and sees himself as an absolute leader. For him, the conch and the rules are boundaries that keep him away from dominating the island. Jack gets rid of the old mind conditioned by a civilization that knows nothing of him and is in ruins through his statement, “Bollocks to the rules! … We hunt!” (Golding, 112). Thus he perceives the beast as an opportunity to break away from Ralph. Jack’s abnormal desire for power prompts him to feed the misinformation of the beast to his group and to perform some superstitious rites and insane chanting. “This head is for the beast. It’s a gift” (Golding, 173). Jack’s fear eventually results in violence and savagery, making the beast real, setting everyone’s animal nature free, and turning them into beasts.
In the Lord of the Flies, human fear has a strong, grasping power over the characters and is the driving force behind their actions. Reading and analyzing literature is necessary and beneficial for people to have a more profound understanding and control of their own fear. The fears of the three characters and the resulting impacts show that the beast is found in every society and could lead the community to distress, disaster, or human corruption.