Thomas Hobbes, in his book describing the structure of government and society Leviathan, depicts the human experience to be “A condition of war of everyone against everyone.” Left cynical about man’s goodness due to his experience in World War II, Golding’s Lord of The Flies, a narrative of a group of boys marooned on an island, is used to explore the sentiment Hobbes established in his work and further conceptualizes the ideology that humans are evil by nature.
Disenchanted by the horrors of the war, Golding writes Lord of the Flies as a commentary on the fragility of civilization and man’s capability of evil. In the novel, the concept of evil is characterized as a sentient decapitated pig’s head, dubbed by the children as “The Lord of the Flies”. The concept of the pig’s head serves as a physical manifestation of the evil that resides within the hearts of humans. Simon, the novel’s characterization of morality, in his encounter with the pig’s head is taunted, “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m a part of you” (Golding). Golding establishes biblical parallels in his work, delegating Simon to be representative of humanity’s capacity for wholesomeness as a Christ-like figure and the Lord of the Flies to be a symbol depicting the power of evil and the inevitability of wickedness as a Satan-like figure. In the novel, the loss of civility and descent into evil is metaphorically epitomized in this scene, in which man’s potential for goodness is overcome with the desire to be evil and do evil. This concept is revisited as Ralph indulges himself in the animalistic violence prompted by mob mentality, “Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering”. Ralph, despite being established by Golding as a characterization of order and civilization, succumbs to the evil within himself, exemplifying that even the most civilized of humanity still has the capability to do evil. This scene depicts that the control needed to suppress the inherent evilness of man cannot withstand lasting temptation. In Golding’s microcosm, he reveals the ongoing state of war within ourselves: the duality of man. In the conflict between civilization and savagery, of brutality and order, results a greater war as individuals are as complex as the choices they make in regards of suppressing evil.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs attribute the evilness of man to the lack of fulfillment of basic human necessities. His study in motivational theory comprises of a five tier model of needs, most often depicted as a pyramid. Maslow’s model of hierarchical needs include “Biological and physical needs, safety needs, love and belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self actualization needs.” (Maslow), these tiers, divided into growth and being needs, describe what motivates humans and why certain needs take precedence over others. The denial of lower levels, despite flexibility in the tiers, result in the depravity of higher tiers. According to Maslow, “People who have difficulty achieving very basic physiological needs are not capable of meeting higher growth needs” (Maslow). The structure of our society facilitates an environment in which most of our needs are met, as a sustainable system that works to fulfil the needs of the collective to the best of its abilities. The removal of the security of society draws out the flaws and shortcomings of humanity by altering the point of view and versions of realities each individual face. A homeless person struggling to have enough to eat everyday can have an altered view on what is deemed morally correct due to the realities of their situation. Stealing or scavenging garbage bins for scraps may come across as crude and depraved actions, but for them it is merely what they need to do to survive. Depravity allows for lapses in moral judgement, which inspires subjective wickedness. The removal of the environment that works to sustain our hierarchical needs results in situations resembling that of Lord of the Flies; chaotic, delving into the darkness of humanity, exposing how depravity in the tiers manifest as actions conventionally deemed evil.
Hobbes’ Leviathan and his studies of the nature of man depict humans as inherently evil and violent. “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”(Hobbes), as Hobbes describes the state of man in nature. Hobbes’ philosophy highlights the animalistic nature of man, acting only of our own self interest without regard for others, producing a perpetual state of war; an us versus them mentality. Without societal structure, Hobbes believed that “During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.” (Hobbes). Societal conventions restrain the primal urges inside of humanity to act based on self interest in order to sustain a population in which the entire community’s well being is prioritized as opposed to individualized pursuits. Without the protection of society dictating what is conventionally deemed correct and the omnipresent authoritative figure society embodies, humanity will be lost to our own self destruction due to the selfish pursuit and indulgence in our primal machiavellian urge to answer to and serve only ourselves.
One observation between Golding, Hobbes, and Maslow’s ideologies remain constant; the concept that humans are evil. Studied through different lenses, these men arrived at the same conclusion despite discrepancies in analytical lens and years in between the conception of each respective ideology. Hobbes’ and Maslow’s work discuss the philosophies of human behavior whereas Golding’s work is an allegorical commentary on the state of affairs in his life. Regardless of the genesis of Golding, Hobbes, and Maslow’s ideologies regarding the behavior of man, support the overarching thesis that humanity, in a state of nature, is inherently evil.