Lord of the Flies Lord of the Flies discussion


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Do you that children are really capable of such evil?

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 30, 2012 03:27PM) (new)

Teenagers commit crimes all the time.

Your thoughts?


Samantha The Escapist I'm confused, are you answering your own question here?

I think the simple answer is absolutely. I don't think childhood innocence is all it's cracked up to be - it's my firm belief that it's actually naiveté that seems innocent. That's not to say that they're not innocent before they're corrupted by their surroundings, but I also don't think cruelty has to be an exclusively learned behaviour - just as altruism can be inherent.


Christina Nip Oh Yes! I think that's the frightening power of this book. Children can be just as cruel and evil as any grownups in their own capacities, but often I think people don't like to be confronted by this fact.


Sage I think that the got really violent at the end because
1. They were bullies
2. They lost hope of being rescued
3. They didn't care about their parents
4. They must have been going mental because of the trauma. like, PTSD


Brittany Yes, children commit violent acts all the time. Sure they are innocent in respects to them not being capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. It's like they will hit, spit, kick, I mean really try to hurt you, especially if they are mad, and they don't realize what they are doing until afterwards and calmed down, but only coming to the conclusion that they did a "bad thing." Pssh, half the time they don't really care they did it lol.


James Rhodes I think the Jamie Bulger case and more recently this http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/so... suggest that they can be.

It is aberant behaviour but given the right circumstances it is possible.


Kirstyn Yes. Just as it says in the book "the beast" is in all of us. Children who are thrust into such a situation are capable of such acts, especially since they are less likely to think before they act and have a less developed ability for good decision making and a less developed moral compass.


Audrey yes. children are capable of the same evil as everyone else. humans aren't taught sin, its part of us, we're born with it.


Raven Raye As someone who survived severe bullying as a child, children are quite capable of hateful acts. This along with not knowing when to quit and peer pressure make for a volatile combination.


Sophie Yes - I think that is what horrifies and intrigues people the most about this book - it is speaking truth. Maybe not so graphically in reality, but we see it everyday in youth detention centres, school-yards, households, friendships, etc. Just because they are young and don't know the ways of the world doesn't mean they are capable of any lesser evil (For example, there was a case a few years back of two 10-year-olds abducting and killing a toddler)
I am still a "child/teenager", and I see and try to act against injustices everyday at school. Sometimes I am even a subject of it myself due to my intellect or my willingness to stand up for others.

It is the way of the world to be cruel. We can't change it, but we can make it lesser.


message 11: by T (last edited Dec 31, 2012 03:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

T K Yes.
The reasons? I would point out 1) their lack of empathy 2) ignorance.

Sometimes, I think children are more "prone" to be cruel because they are selfish. I am not trying to say children are evil, but they are still in the age where their needs are easily fulfilled by parents. Independence (& responsibility), all those stuff building up empathy level.
The ignorant part would point their lack of experience. Have they been taught that "____" (ex.bullying) is bad? Do they know what would cause what damage? Like Huck Finn, who played a cruel prank on Jim because he did not know how offensive it would be.

(There are more factors & much to be branched out from my thoughts.)


Serena Reese Absolutely, children can be evil. I have met one child in particular that I would consider nearly evil. He just turned four, but the things this boy does are just....awful...and weird. I won't get into specifics, but after spending extended time with this boy, there is definitely something different and 'wrong' about him. I would not want him alone with my daughter, ever. Some children go beyond being a bully (which is mainly because of peer pressure); it's like they have something inside them, some malfunction.


Scott Yes, of course. Children are selfish and cruel unless brought up differently and given guidance.


Samantha The Escapist Tiffany wrote: "Yes.
The reasons? I would point out 1) their lack of empathy 2) ignorance.

Sometimes, I think children are more "prone" to be cruel because they are selfish. I am not trying to say children are ev..."


I agree with that, my own personal experience with having been a child is that I was surrounded by unsympathetic monsters. I simply didn't understand kids because I developed a sense of empathy extremely early - I can't say whether this was my mother's doing or not. I alienated myself and didn't have friends until I was quite a bit older simply because I didn't trust anyone around me because their motives never made any sense to me.


message 15: by Jeni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeni I think children learn by example, so if there is hatred and violence and bigotry and bullying in their homes, they will carry that through in their own lives.

In the case of the book, human self-preservation is a very feral reaction and children can come to the same conclusions that adults come to in similar situations.


Samantha The Escapist Alexandria wrote: "The main thing here is how a parent raises a child, which will determine what that child will actually turn out to be, both good and bad influences. They need to be taught, and unfortunately in the..."

So the children went bad with an absense of good influence, shouldn't that be the same as saying they stayed good with the absense of bad influence?

They were left entirely to their own devices, I suppose it's hard to say the situation is neutral given the grueling survival conditions, however, there are no negative influences in the form of adults or society. The cruelty the children resort to simply can't be learned unless we impose elements that aren't stated in the story by assuming their lives before they got to the island were toxic. This seems unfair to the author as I'm certain he presented us with all the factors he wanted us to consider in debates such as this. Moreover each situation they encounter presents what is essentially a good and evil option - when they choose the evil option is has a great deal of meaning.


Serena Reese It's nature vs. nurture. Some studies show that each influence is equal, 50/50. The boy I was talking about is being raised in a Christian environment where they attend church 3 times a week and all the children are homeschooled. The nurturing is there, but it didn't do much good in his case.


message 18: by Scott (last edited Dec 31, 2012 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Scott That's not a healthy environment. I'm not surprised he turned out that way.


Karen There was bullying very early in the novel. Also, it adds to the irony to use children.


Darci The boys in the book were not meant to be seen as evil, in the sense of having some defect of character. They were very ordinary until the thin veneer of civilization was stripped away. Those who did try to retain that were victimized by those who gave in to the impulse of mob rule in the absence of a legitimate authority. Children are even more prone than adults to fall into such behavior because their brains are less fully developed.


message 21: by Matthew (last edited Dec 31, 2012 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matthew Williams Mme. Catherine le Ninja Coréen wrote: "Teenagers commit crimes all the time.

Your thoughts?"


Keeping in mind that they were entirely without supervision and fell under the sway of a sociopathic kid... absolutely. And for the record, innocence does not entail moral purity. Innocence means one is ignorant and unaware of what their actions entail. In that respect, these kids were innocent in that they didn't understand what they were doing until it was too late.


message 22: by Bill (last edited Dec 31, 2012 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Labounty The isolation of an island coupled with the socially and culturally undeveloped boys created a novel microcosm of our civilization. Adolescent boys, given such an opportunity, don't waste time in getting down to animal basics. Golding was writing about our whole planet not just children. As a human race we've pretty much made a similar mess of the earth as these castaway boys did their little island. But who will rescue us?


Sadie Yes, there's a lot of real life cases of children doing terrible things but I do think that someone has to be a little messed up from the start to do something really bad, but I could be wrong.


Samantha The Escapist Darci wrote: "The boys in the book were not meant to be seen as evil, in the sense of having some defect of character. They were very ordinary until the thin veneer of civilization was stripped away. Those who d..."


Lol Darci you just said exactly what my boyfriend said when I brought up this discussion, word for word on "until the thin veneer of civilization was stripped away"


Sophie Scott said: that is not a healthy environment. I'm not surprised he turned out that way.


Actually, I was homeschooled by my mother along with my six brothers and sisters, and we go to church every Sunday, and it was an amazing environment for us. It helped me focus more on the things I am talented at (ie. Art, writing) and it gave me more one on one time to learn, rather than being in a classroom with lots of other children. It also gave me more time to read and appreciate the classic authors and musicians. :)


Karen I have wondered how it would have been different if the children had been girls or both boys and girls.


Sophie Karen wrote: "I have wondered how it would have been different if the children had been girls or both boys and girls."

Boys would be much more inclined to leadership, but girls would have had fights continuously, unable to follow one single person (I speak from experience. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating). I think having two different genders would make a difference


Stephen Actually children are capable of the same amount of evil as adults. Also they are not fully socialized yet so may not have some of the inhibitions toward acting in "bad" ways that most adults do. Also children have been proven to have poor impulse control as those parts of the brain don't mature as early as others.

For a chilling look at this in a more modern encarnation, take a look at Gone by Michael Grant


don  Presnell absoultely,
i think the most disturbing
war/cartel videos are the 12-13
yr olds holding guns


Geoffrey Actually the actors who played in the first film adaptation were reported to have been tossing live chameleons in the electric fans cooling the set.


message 31: by Rick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick Soper If you don't think kids are capable of pure and absolute evil then you haven't spent much time on a playground where kids don't think the adults are watching, if you did you'd see everything that's in the book play itself out right in front of you. the leaders will lead, the followers will follow, and eventually someone is going to get beat up.


message 32: by Jp36 (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jp36 Karen wrote: "I have wondered how it would have been different if the children had been girls or both boys and girls."

For sure it would have opened up new possibilities. So too would changes to the boys background or even the time period I think.

Boys being socially pressured to be strong/tough and the idolization of war and aggression I think plays a part in the story as well.


Hayley Linfield Of course. From the time a child starts to interact with others, the most common thing for a parent to say to them is, "Gently! Gently." Violence is inherent within us. Fortunately, so is love.


message 34: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Taylor Yes, and honestly I think adults thrown into the same situation would have done the same thing, though it might have taken a little bit longer for them to decide they weren't getting rescued.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you for all of your answers!

My opinion::
I personally believe that all people have equal amounts of light and darkness in them, regardless of age or nurture....children are capable of the same "evil" as adults, but do "evil" things less often mainly due to physical/political inability and the tendency of the young to follow their parents (most of whom lean towards the "good" or at least "decent" end of the spectrum).


message 36: by Redd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Redd Kaiman "I did it cause it's fun, it's fun to do bad things and drive into a car": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLeVlB...

My webcomic: http://reddkaiman.blogspot.com/


Glynis Smy Children are most definitely capable of evil crimes. My baby granddaughter is being taught that smacking other babies is not correct, likewise the parents of the other children are doing the same. If she were not taught right from wrong, the smacking would continue. Parental guidance helps some, yet others cannot grasp the concept, and continue to smack. In the book, the children are left to their own devices, and nature sorts those who will and those who won't, into groups. Society shown in its truest form. In my humble opinion.:)


Samantha Glasser Children are just young versions of adults. That kind of malice isn't developed over time. It is always there and we mold ourselves and each other to repress that and to be kind to each other.


Gordon Paisley @Jp36:

I think you are missing Golding's point. I think he made the chronological setting as vague as he could to make the point that the story wasn't a function of time or culture, but that this is a universal possibility. Certainly, some of the details and maybe the speed at which they decended into barbarity might have been affected by their culture, but the point is that they (or any group of boys without the moderating effect of adults) would have wound up in the same place.
Similarly, I don't think that anyone can say that had this been a group of similarly-aged girls that the rescuers would have found a huge tea party going on when they found them. To believe so would be naive and miss the entire point of the story.
I think the book is popular in high school English classes because it resonates so deeply with that dark side that is really in the heart of us all.


message 40: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Taylor What I'm curious about is the main character, the one who DIDN'T go nuts and continued to hope for rescue until the other children started trying to kill him (it's been so long since I read this, I can't remember the names anymore).

Of the entire group, there's one child who never gave in to their baser nature. What percentage of the population is that child, and what is different about him? Is it some genetic part of their brain function, some personality aspect they're born with, something to do with their upbringing?


message 41: by Peter (last edited Jan 07, 2013 05:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter B Forster From a psychological perspective children are capable of brutal acts. We can see it everyday in the small acts of egocentricity and aggression even against people they actually love. Development of a theory of mind and an understanding of the existence of the other person is a long process and not fully developed until late adolescence, sadly sometimes it doesn't even happen then, especially in cases of sociopathy and personality disorder. Freud was particularly afraid of the power of children hence his theory of the oedipal complex. Its existence and the outlawing of relationships such as incest were a direct response to the fear of sons killing fathers. The finality of death is misunderstood whereas the belief one is indestructable is widespread among the young. This is why children can kill as part of gang related activity, with guns and knives and why child soldiers are common place in recent conflicts. Sadly the belief in the innocence of children and the tableau rosa only holds true if they are cosseted in a loving and nurturing environment otherwise the biological imperative of survivial is the primary response. In the minds of many, Freud in particular that can make children the most dangerous of all. It is expected that we need to take care of dangerous and damaged adults , but take your eyes off the damaged child and mayhem can be the result. Example Whatever happened to Kevin?


Micah  Bomar Honestly, I think that it's possible for child to do brutal acts depending on what they have been exposed to. In elementary I got into "fights" if a person made me angry or pushed me to a limit. Through a psychological stand point to what they find acceptable and the morals of their thoughts, since they did not have parents or anything, it's definitely possible.


Florence Welch I remember reading somewhere that during the filming of the 1963 film, the boy playing Piggy came up to the director in floods of tears saying that the other boys had told him that he was going to be actually killed on screen. So yeah, I think children can be cruel and violent.


message 44: by Monty J (last edited Feb 10, 2013 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying In a word, "no." The book was not believable 30 years ago, and it's not believable now, as I'm reading it again.

I don't think it was ever meant to be believable. It makes sense only as a mental exercise. The characters are two-dimensional, as in a parable from the Bible. We don't even know but two of the characters' last names or what town they're from or what schools they attended. We know Ralph's father was a naval officer, and that's the extent of family background supplied.

The characters are foils, there to illustrate a point, that man has innate animal characteristics. It's absurd to think that teenagers from a civilized nation would revert to savagery under any but the most extreme circumstances. And these were certainly not extreme. People, even teenagers, don't lose all sense of reason just because they're in the woods for a few weeks.

I could see one or two behaving badly, but they would have been brought into line by the rest. These kids are from educated upper middle-class families who would have, one would expect, a firm grounding in values.

On another level the book feeds on paranoia, making us feel uncomfortable about an otherwise harmless everyday surrounding, a Hitchcock trick in The Birds.

Or is the author making some backhanded political statement about the British upper class being prone to savagery? After all, there is a historical disregard for human life in the British aristocracy, e.g. the Boer atrocities, the Opium Wars and profiteering from slavery, etc., etc. The same can be said for the ruling elite of many countries, notably, Japan and Germany during WWII.


message 45: by Stephen (last edited Jan 21, 2013 07:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Stephen Monty J wrote: "...It's absurd to think that teenagers from a civilized nation would revert to savagery under such circumstances. "

I'm afraid that I have to disagree. Children can be more savage pound for pound than adults. Their brains haven't fully developed and generally are known for exhibiting poor impulse control and less than stellar judgement.

An interesting twist/update on the whole children reverting to savages scenario is explored in the novel Gone and it's sequels. I found it well worth the reading time.


James Rhodes The psychology of evil is also the psycholpgy of comformity and the dehumanisation of the other. Piggy is turned stripped of his humanity and therefore becomes as easy to kill as an animal. The Lucifer Effect by Zimbardo is an excellent study of how ordinary people can do evil things.


James Rhodes Golding seems to have incorporated a lot of behavioural psychology into his work.


Hayley Linfield James wrote: "The psychology of evil is also the psycholpgy of comformity and the dehumanisation of the other. Piggy is turned stripped of his humanity and therefore becomes as easy to kill as an animal. The L..."

The banality of evil. It's frightening that humans can behave this way, but we certainly do. Look no further than the Holocaust. Children are no different.


Abram Martinez Monty J wrote: "In a word, "no." The book was not believable 30 years ago, and it's not believable now, as I'm reading it again.

I don't think it was ever meant to be believable. It makes sense only as a mental ..."


You are one of those people that is always really shocked when violence happens, aren't you?


Monty J Heying Abram wrote: "You are one of those people that is always really shocked when violence happens, aren't you? "

The book is the subject of discussion, not me.


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Lord of the Flies (other topics)
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