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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. 


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