Novels can be seen as an onion. At first, the readers encounter the transparent outer layer, in which they discover the most external levels of the book – the plot, characters, locales, etc. However, when one begins to “peel” more and more layers into the deeper meanings of the text, one may reveal profound insights about humanity.
Novels do not only offer an entertaining story but also attempt to reflect on who we are, what we are, how we were before and where we might be going in the future. This is one of the most fundamental values of literary texts – to shed insightful light on human nature and its unique features. Let us peel the first layer of this essay with a discussion of the famous novel Lord of the Flies.
When superficially reading the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, it may seem like a fascinating but yet merely a plain story – a group of kids is left deserted on a stranded island, and a gripping chain of events turns their situation from bad to catastrophic. Nevertheless, when beginning to contemplate what the novel’s literary elements and devices signify, we realize how fickle human nature is and how dystopian fiction does actually occur, to some extent at least, in reality as well.
People can turn into cruel savages very rapidly. Without even being aware of it, suddenly, the civilized becomes shockingly uncivil, digression looms as the norm and moral values disappear as if they never existed. What were once seemingly cultured human beings now transformed into a bloodthirsty barbarian tribe. Moral values were vanquished by a mixture of desperation and strong charismatic leadership that had brandished the illusion of hope, even if coupled with sadistic manners and a radical vision. They were willing to barter their own basic virtues as human beings for the promise of a better tomorrow. This is not the imaginative world of Golding, though, but Nazi Germany.
In Lord of the Flies, the kids on the island gradually flock to Jack’s tribe as he embodies for them the powerful, authoritative figure and a more alluring way of living in times of great ordeal. Jack creates and enhances the kids’ fear of the “beast,” an unreal grisly creature, in order to manipulatively induce them to partake in brutal attacks against their fellow kids. This situation resembles the state of many German citizens following the Great Depression in the early 1930s, which led to the rise of Hitler. The Nazi Party, in a similar manner to Jack, spread intimidating false propaganda to obtain more political power. In spite of the acute differences on the surface between the fictitious dystopian novel and the real historical calamity, those are actually the same faults of human nature underneath the first layer of the onion.
Lord of the Flies contains more examples of deeper layers and meanings in the text, which evoke sagacious insights about human nature. Sadly, those could not be discussed in this concise and brief essay. However, the figurative “peeler” is available and accessible in everybody’s mind. One has only to be curious enough to read, think critically and uncover the intrinsic layers of the human onion.