The human nature of various characters in literature often relates to political and moral theories founded by famous philosophers. The ideas in William Golding’s allegorical novel, Lord of the Flies, repeatedly contrast with the morality-driven views of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Many of Freidrich’s beliefs involve that all humans seek to affirm themselves and to dominate others, which is influenced by the will to power; the concept of the Übermensch (the Overman); and master-slave morality, which are the two fundamental and opposing structures of morality that humans are based upon. These views are explicitly manifested in three salient characters: Jack, the manipulative and barbaric antagonist; Roger, the furtive sadist with an extreme bloodlust; and Simon, the Christ-figure, who is motivated by his deep feeling of connectedness to nature, as opposed to the unbridled savagery of the majority of the boys on the island.
Paragraph 1 (Nietzsche): First of all, Jack’s demeanor and primal nature relates to Friedrich Nietzsche’s doctrine of the will to power, which describes that our fundamental drive is for power, as realized in independence and dominance. Nietzsche says, “To refrain from mutual injury, mutual violence, mutual exploitation, to equate one’s own will with that of another:… [is] the denial of life…. Life is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and,… exploitation…. Life is will to power” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 259).
This concept stipulates that any action that Jack performs is meant to bring the other boys on the island under his will. This is shown when he and the choirboys are introduced to the rest of the boys and follows through until just before the surviving boys are rescued. It is also extremely apparent that Jack has had this will to power even before he ended up on the island, as his nature is so militaristic and powerful that his choirboys are “wearily obedient” (Golding 16) and Simon even passes out after protesting to sit. Yet another fine example of this power-hungry behaviour is that Jack manipulates the boys using fear and violence. When Piggy blames him for letting the fire go out, it “drove Jack to violence” and he “took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy’s stomach” (Golding 75). However, when Ralph is elected as chief, Jack’s tendency towards that primal nature begins to show very evidently. One could argue that similarly to the will to power, Jack also manifests the concept of master morality.
Paragraph 2 (Nietzsche): According to Nietzsche, one who is a master moralist believes that striving for more power and having pride is the way that life should be. Master moralists also surmise that those who are negative towards them are weak and cowardly: “according to master morality, it is precisely the “good” man who inspires and desires to inspire fear, while the “bad” man will be felt as despicable” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 260). Without a doubt, this manifestation is exhibited in Jack’s character innumerable times, such as Jack’s persistent reminders that he is the breadwinner when he waves his spear and commands the boys with the spit to “take [Ralph and Piggy] some meat” (Golding 165). Though Jack has already gained a copious amount of power by forming his own group of hunters on the island, he still hungers and thirsts for even more power and control.
The idea that master moralists believe those who are bad to them aren’t worthy comes to play when “Simon, sitting between the twins and Piggy, wiped his mouth and shoved his piece of meat over the rocks to Piggy, who grabbed it” (Golding 78), followed by Jack, who “leapt to his feet, slashed off a great hunk of meat, and flung it down at Simon’s feet” (Golding 78) as if Simon is weak and not as worthy as him. To a master moralist, it doesn’t matter when it comes to any other aspect of one’s character. It only matters if the person has a desire for power or not. This can lead to conflicts and tension with other individuals, which occurs in Jack and Ralph’s declining relationship. One instance where this bravery- and power-battle happens is when Jack challenges Ralph to go up the mountain by saying the “supreme sting, the casual, bitter word”, which is “Coming?” (Golding 131). Jack has a regressive character development, where initially he is introduced as an insecure choirboy who ignores his morals and later becomes an extremely powerful leader. In essence, this is his master morality being put into practice to the nth degree. It is clear that he enjoys challenging others who pose as a threat to him and his power over others.
Paragraph 1 (Nietzsche): Friedrich Nietzsche reasons that if an individual is a yes-sayer, it means they tend to follow their own morals and to focus on personal freedom rather than morals set by society: “Every select man strives instinctively for a citadel and a privacy…where he may forget ‘men who are the rule”’ (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 26). As aforementioned, Friedrich also believes that any action in a society should develop from the individual will to obtain power. This struggle between choosing to follow one’s own morals and choosing to follow the standards of behaviour set by society subtly plays out through Roger, Jack’s “lieutenant” and the id out of the boys on the island.
One example of this conflict between the two juxtaposing ideas is that Roger throws stones at Henry, avoiding “a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter” that represents “the taboo of the old life” (Golding 65), as well as the feeling of bindings and punishments from the adults in the civilization that the boys left. However, the escape from Roger following societal standards occurs when his animalistic ways take over and, “with a sense of delirious abandonment” (Golding 200), he brutally slaughters Piggy using an evolutionary motif: a boulder. Therefore, Nietzsche’s theory is truly reflected upon Roger, whose actions become based upon a will to power and are influenced by being a yes-sayer.
Paragraph 2 (Nietzsche): Roger’s regression from being a choirboy to becoming a sadist is excellent proof of Golding’s conviction that human instinct is possible to revert into brutality without the limitations of civilization. It is also a great parallel to Nietzsche’s popular theory of the will to power. Roger is, without a doubt, an anarchist. Without the controls available to most dictators, Jack’s role as the dictator obliviously (but instantly) gives way to Roger, who has been waiting to unleash his sadism. The will to power can manifest itself through both violence and physical dominance. When Jack orders the hunters to retreat back to Castle Rock after chasing Ralph, Roger completely disobeys his orders and approaches Sam and Eric menacingly. He edges past Jack, “only just avoiding pushing him with his shoulder… [He] advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority” (Golding 202). He realizes that he is the strongest, and he shoulders his way to the metaphoric top of the hierarchy. Although Jack is still the chief of the hunters, Roger’s complete disregard for morals and humanity combined with his sadistic and malevolent nature suggests that he is going to be a threat to Jack’s leadership and authority.
Paragraph 1 (Nietzsche): Similar to Jack, Simon is an individual who relates to one of the two moralities of Nietzsche’s master-slave morality concept. However, rather than being a master moralist, Simon perfectly and comprehensively fits into the slave moralist persona. A slave moralist is one who seeks to eradicate the desire for power and encourages altruism, patience, and kindness. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, slave moralists are “the abused, the oppressed, the suffering, the unemancipated, the weary, and those uncertain of themselves” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 260).
Throughout Simon’s time on the island, he is abused and tyrannized, specifically by Jack. As previously mentioned, when he gives his meat to Piggy when he is denied food, Jack throws a chunk of meat at him. Not to mention, Simon suffers in various ways: he suffers from a condition and passes out numerous times; he suffers from inferiority when he introduces reasonable and rational ideas to the other boys; he suffers the unshakable naiveté of childhood and is deceived by the belief that everything will be “all right” (Golding 111). Simon is constantly oppressed and ostracized, as well. One example is that he is replaced by Roger when they go up the mountain. Initially, Simon joins Ralph and Jack to explore the island and to “go on an expedition and find out” (Golding 20). However, after Ralph exclaims that “two won’t be enough” (Golding 131) if only two people go up the mountain to look for the supposed beast, “a dark figure moved against the tide” (Golding 131), introduced as Roger. This shows that though Simon may be the most rational thinker on the island (a fine example of dramatic irony), he is seen as inferior, thus allowing for his opinions to be ignored.
Paragraph 2 (Nietzsche): Simon’s persona is a hidden parallel to Christ, as he becomes a sacrificial figure who is brutally murdered when trying to spread his message, falls three times before his death, is challenged by evil but overcomes it, and more. In addition, he has a very heightened perception of what goes on around him and has multiple prophecies. However, he is unable to impose his will on any of the boys, thus allowing for his meek nature to be inadequate enough to connect to link with Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of the Übermensch (the Overman). The Übermensch “[ascends] to the rank of the highest type… the type of man that is strong and sure of life” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 786).
As previously mentioned, Simon is very weak-willed, making him a slave moralist and very far from being an Overman. Rather, Nietzsche’s quote that “he who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 146) connects more to Simon, denotatively and connotatively. An example of Simon’s actions that reflect this quote is his encounter with the evil and demoniac Lord of the Flies: “[Simon’s] eyes could not break away and the Lord of the Flies hung in space before him” (Golding 158). Denotatively, the Lord of the Flies’ eyes have captured Simon’s in a way, and he is unable to look away.
Another denotative instance is when Simon “found he was looking into a vast mouth. There was a blackness within, a blackness that spread” (Golding 159), which involves the same idea as Simon staring into the sow’s eyes. However, in this quote, the metaphor becomes clear. Simon is devoured by the mouth of this imaginary beast, but it is a dark, evil, and black mouth that engulfs him. This “blackness” is the blackness and darkness of man’s heart that brings about the fear and evil on the island.
Much of both Nietzsche’s ideals and the actions manifested in three differing but paramount characters—Jack, Roger, and Simon—come down to will to power and morality. Both Jack and Roger demonstrate the will to power idea as well as slave morality, and Simon exudes slave morality, which are fine examples of Nietzsche’s beliefs. Friedrich Nietzsche believes, in general, that all humans seek to affirm themselves and to dominate others. He also greatly beliefs in the idea of master-slave morality. Defects in society are traceable to human nature and human nature has essential flaws and defects within itself. Hidden beyond the facade of advancing technology, social awareness, and civility, humankind is savage, competitive, and power-hungry, and this presumption is something that both Golding and Nietzsche passionately believe in. Perhaps this truth about human nature should be more eminent in society today, which could possibly convey the exact same message that Simon was unfortunately unable to deliver.