Author's View of Human Behaivior
An author's view of human behavior is often reflected in their works. The novels All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and Lord of the Flies by William Golding are both examples of works that demonstrate their author's view of man, as well his opinion of war. Golding's Lord of the Flies is highly demonstrative of Golding's opinion that society is a thin and fragile veil that when removed shows man for what he truly is, a savage animal. Perhaps the bet demonstration of this given by Golding is Jack's progression to the killing of the sow. Upon first landing on the island Jack, Ralph, and Simon go to survey their new home. Along the way the boys have their first encounter with the island's pigs. They see a piglet caught in some of the plants. Quickly Jack draws his knife so as to kill the piglet. Instead of completing the act, however, Jack hesitates. Golding states that, "The pause was only long enough for them to realize the enormity of what the downward stroke would be." Golding is suggesting that the societal taboos placed on killing are still ingrained within Jack. The next significant encounter in Jack's progression is his first killing of a pig. There is a description of a great celebration. The boys chant "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood." It is clear from Golding's description of the revelry that followed the killing that the act of the hunt provided the boys with more than food. The action of killing another living thing gives them pleasure. The last stage in Jack's metamorphosis is demonstrated by the murder of the sow. Golding describes the killing almost as a rape. He says, "Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward wherever pig flesh appeared ... Jack found the throat, and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her." In this case it is certain that animal savagery is displayed by the boys. Because they have been away from organized society for such a long time, the boys of the island have become Golding's view of mankind, vile, destructive beasts. Although Golding shows that the longer one is away from society the closer to his view one becomes, the institution of civilization does not escape his criticism. Golding shows through many examples that those who are "civilized" are just as prone to violence and war as those who are isolated. The first example presented in the novel occurs when the boys attempt to emulate the British democratic government. The boys prize the adults that run the government as the best decision makers. It is these "civilized" adults, however, who started the war which has forced the boys onto the island. Also, in their mimicking of adult society, one of the first things that the boys do is establish the choir as an army or a group of hunters. Another of the criticisms of orderly society comes when Ralph asks for a sign from the adult world. Ralph does receive his sign in the form of a dead parachute shot down in an air battle above the island. This can be interpreted as saying that the savagery existent in man is even shown in the so called "civilized" world through acts of war. Golding clearly sees war as an action of destruction caused by man because of his inherently feral nature. While Golding views man as a brutal creature whose vile traits are brought out by isolation from society, Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front displays a remarkably contrasting opinion of humanity. Where Golding's characters become increasingly more sadistic when placed in a difficult circumstance, those of Remarque manage to actually grow more caring and develop a feeling of comradeship. It is clear that despite the fact that Remarque's main character and narrator, Paul B"umer, is taking part in a war and killing others, he is not a brutal disgusting creature. Even on the front, where Paul is in danger of losing his life, he acts in a way directly contrasting Golding's view of man as a vicious hunter. Paul is faced with a French soldier who he is to throw a grenade at. Upon seeing his face, however, Paul hesitates to toss the lethal weapon, as he now recognizes that this soldier is a person probably much like himself. This is obviously against Golding's opinion. In the two murders that occur in Lord of the Flies, those of Piggy and Simon, the killers do not care about what they are doing as they are caught up in the intense feeling of the kill. Another example of Remarque's view of man is the reaction of Paul to the Russian soldiers that have been captured. He gives them cigarettes and food. He deeply sympathizes with their situation despite being their enemy in name. This is again an act of kindness and uncalled for altruism, something directly against Golding's perceptions. As Remarque's views of the nature of man differs form Golding, so does his opinion about war. Unlike Golding, who feels that war is a result of man's natural cruelty and innate desire to hurt others, Remarque is of the opinion that war is began because of a few people in power, not all of humanity. At one point in All Quiet on the Western Front one of the characters, Albert Kropp, suggests that "a deceleration of war should be a popular festival with entrance tickets and bands, like a bull fight. Then in the arena the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out among themselves." This opinion is reflective of Remarque's own. While Golding concentrates only on the underlying causes of war, Remarque goes on to explain its horrors, as his is an anti-war novel. Remarque frequently is pointing out the atrocities of war. While there are countless examples of this in the novel two of the most striking are the descriptions of the dying horses and one of the French soldiers. The description that Remarque uses to convey the image of the dying horses is a very vivid one intended to provoke a sense of disgust in the reader. He states, "The belly of one is ripped open, the guts trail out. He becomes tangled in them and falls, then he stands up again." Remarque hopes that the anguish of the horses, who were in no way responsible for their situation, will earn the reader's sympathy. The equally graphic picture of the dying French soldier is also intended to show the reader some of the horror of war. Remarque says, "... a blow form a spade cleaves through his face. A second sees it and tries to run farther, a bayonet jabs into his back." Remarque and Golding have differing opinions on human nature as well as war. Golding, through the actions of his characters, attempts to illustrate that under chaotic circumstances, removed normal society man reverts to what his nature deems him to be, a destructive creature. Remarque's characters, on the other hand, manage to show compassion and humane treatment of others despite being thrust into a situation more terrible than that of Golding's characters. Where Golding feels war is a result of humankind's vile nature, Remarque sees it as an evil brought about by only a select few.