Human Nature Essay Example: Freud’s Ideas In The Lord Of The Flies


“Unexpressed emotions never die. They are buried alive and come forth later in uglier way”, said by Neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. His quote explains the source of savagery and cruel emotion. Sigmund Freud is an Austrian Neurologist who studied brain disorders and psychology. Freud is the founder of the ideology that humans are naturally aggressive and cruel. He also believes that humans behave and thrive well in societies. His ideology is expressed throughout the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In Lord of the Flies a plane filled with British schoolboys is shot down along the Pacific ocean. Only the boys survive the crash and they land on an uninhabited island.

The boys are alone with no source of authority except for the blow of a conch. The protagonists Jack Merridew and Ralph compete over the support of the younger boys. Throughout the novel they quarrel over their different beliefs in leading which eventually leads to chaos. Freud’s ideas are also shown in Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison experiment held by Philip Zimbardo. Within this experiment a group of college boys were separated into prisoners and prison guards and were put into an artificial prison environment. This experiment was meant to be a social study, but it quickly went into chaos. The prisoners were taken advantage of and dehumanized by the prison guards and the experiment had to be stopped. Human nature is cruel and aggressive as shown by the ideology and theories of Sigmund Freud, the events in Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison experiment, and William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies. 

Natural aggressiveness 

First, human nature is naturally aggressive and Freud clearly states his stance in his article Human Nature is Aggressive. The article specifically states “Freud contends that even though people say that they want love and peace, they are instinctively aggressive towards each other” (Freud, 27). In summary, “Homo homini lupus [ ‘Man is a wolf to man’ ]” (Freud, 27). Humans have a natural inclination to be aggressive. Man is aggressive to other men. Freud also states in his article that it is “not easy for men to give up the satisfaction of this inclination [to aggression]. They do not feel comfortable without it” (Freud, 31) and “instinctual passions are stronger than reasonable interests” (Freud, 29). As previously stated, Freud believes that humans are naturally aggressive and they cannot help it; they cannot live without it. Also, humans will naturally default to their own desires and instincts. Reasoning does not matter because humans are naturally aggressive and selfish. Freud's ideas are directly reflected in William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies.

In Lord of the Flies Freud’s ideas are directly reflected upon. The boys become corrupted by the lack of society and default to their savage nature. In several instances the boys realize their wrong doing, but because of the lack of society and authority they do not stop. For example, one of the boys was throwing rocks at another boy, Henry. Golding says, “. . . Yet there was a space ‘round Henry. . . into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of his old life” (Golding, 62). This was a scene where the boy knew that throwing rocks at Henry was wrong and he felt guilty. The guilt was the taboo of his old life; normally he would be chastised by an authority, or society. In another scene, “Henry and Johnny were throwing sand at Percival who was crying; and all three were in complete ignorance of the excitement.” (Golding, 67).

This scene directly depicts Freud’s theory that humans are naturally aggressive. These boys are filling Percival’s eyes for their own pleasure and are oblivious to Percival's plea to stop. Both of these instances of the boys being aggressive towards each other are the points of Freud’s ideology; that humans are aggressive. Also, one of the characters, Simon is killed by the other boys in a frenzy of oblivion and aggression.  “At once the crowd surged after it [Simon], poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws” (Golding, 118). The boys mistook Simon for the Beast, and they killed Simon with their bare hands, no weapons were involved. Within their frenzy they were savages, they were Freud’s ideology. The abuse of power and lack of society is also shown in  Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison experiment made by Philip Zimbardo. 

The Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison experiment by Philip Zimbardo was a social experiment to observe the psychological effects of power. Within this experiment a group of college men were divided into a group of prisoners and a group of prison guards and put into an artificial prison environment in the Stanford School basement. Within this experiment there were many cases of abuses of power, dehumanization/degradation, and physical harm.

This experiment had to be put to an abrupt end because of the physical effects. The prison guards tried to prove their authority through acts of degradation and dehumanization and those acts would mentally and physically damage the prisoners. For example, prisoner 416 was specifically targeted by prison guard, Dave. Dave would abuse his power by making 416 do degrading acts as a way to dehumanize him. Dave made 416 do push ups, undress, walk like Frankenstein, perform sexual acts on other prisoners, and many more degrading tasks. In retaliation, 416 went on a hunger strike. Dave’s actions are his natural aggression that is amplified in this artificial environment and lack of society.  When Professor Christina Maslach saw Zimbardo’s experiment she demanded it to stop because Zimbardo was mentally abusing these men. All of these acts are acts of Freud’s ideology. The abuse of power and dehumanization are acts of aggression and selfishness. Overall, humans are naturally aggressive. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, humans are naturally aggressive as pointed out by Sigmund Freud. Freud’s ideas are made clear in William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies and by the events of Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment. Freud founded and studied human psychology and the brain and has come to the conclusion that humans are naturally aggressive. In Lord of the Flies, the characters portray aggression and they are caught up in their own savageness. The lack of society in The Stanford Prison Experiment led to corruption of power, degradation, dehumanization and physical harm. All of these aspects of literature and history have Freud’s ideology in common, that humans are naturally aggressive.

 

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