Golding, who spent most of his life as an English teacher at a boys’ school (apart from his 6 years of service in the Royal Navy), at times divided his class in two gangs and encouraged them to attack one another. These psychological experiments, combined with his wartime experiences, formed the basis of his characters in Lord of the Flies.
This is not to discredit Golding or his work. But, when applying critical thinking, many would have understood that that his negative view of human nature should be seen as part of of his wartime trauma and a strong dislike for his pupils. But, instead, ‘Lord of the Flies’ was allowed to form our opinion of children and their violent behaviour when left to their own devices. The consensus view of most psychologists – still today – would say that Golding’s depiction of human character is an “accurate and authentic representation of the complexity of human nature”.
But, as with many things, we need to take the characters in Lord of the Flies and their evilness with more than a pinch of salt and understand Golding’s state of mind when he wrote this. Would it have been wise for someone at the time to question Golding’s view of the world and of children instead of leaning so heavily into his negative bias? If, for example, Golding would have been a happier human being himself and less prone to depression and negativity, the story could have had a different message and a better ending instead of the deflating savagery it conveyed.
But then, negativity and perceived ‘raw realism’ get more attention and invoke more discussion instead of focusing on what is actually good. Fell for it?