Golding uses the phrase “darkness in man’s heart” to refer to the evil and barbarism in man.
Throughout the novel, “darkness” is used as a symbolism for the evil, savagery and cruelty within mankind. Evenings are “menaced by the coming of the dark”, and it is at night-time when the darkness of ignorance and superstition descends on the community, that the island becomes a frightening place, and when dreadful deeds occur such as the murder of Simon.
The first incident that shows the extent of savagery in the boys is the hunting of the sow. The large sow had been peacefully suckling her young, “sunk in deep maternal bliss” and so her death agony is therefore even more horrifying and gruesome. Jack’s behaviour is especially barbaric when he is described as “lugging out the hot bags of coloured guts”. Violence is portrayed with phrases like “air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror” and “prodding with his knife whenever pigflesh appeared”. Similarly, Golding compares the killing to that of a sexual attack – the boys are described as being “wedded to her [sow] in lust”, “hurling” themselves at the sow and the eventual killing is compared to the pleasure of an orgasm. (“heavy and fulfilled upon her”)
The attack on the sow is more violent and shocking than the previous slaying of a pig (in Chapter 4). The boys show remarkable brutality in choosing for destruction the sow with piglets at her side – a picture of serene motherhood and domesticity. The killing of the sow is the point at which the powers of destruction, embodied by Jack, triumph over the restraints of civilisation represented by Ralph. Here, the boys irrevocably commit themselves to a savage way of life and there is no turning back after this.
By going beyond murder to suggest hint of a sexual attack, Golding is implying that the boys are losing their innocence (sex is usually associated only with adults). Jack and the boys are overthrowing civilisation’s inhibitions and giving way to their primitive urges.
Also, Golding points out that the desire to dominate is present in even the most innocent of children. The boys want to exercise power, to impose their will over a victim (the sow) as this gives them a sense of satisfaction. (“fulfilled” their needs) The fact that the boys do not even feel a single tinge of remorse nor guilt and even re-enact the killing of the pigs, to the hilarious “laughter” of the boys, shows the extent of degeneration in the boys, and how sadistic they have become.
Similarly, the murder of Simon brings out more poignantly the evil in the boys. Simon had meant to tell the truth about the beast (that it is merely “harmless and horrible”) in order to bring hope and salvation the boys.
Ironically, his courage and sense of obligation to others lead to his death when he crawls into the midst of their tribal dance, is mistaken for the beast and viciously killed! The boys are so blinded by the “thick, urgent” desire to kill and hurt that they lose all their senses. Animal savagery seizes them and as Golding puts it, there are “no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws”.
The fact that the chant of the boys has changed to “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” is a subtle reminder that the boys have changed their target from being an animal (“it”) to a person, more specifically, a male (“he”). Golding could be suggesting that the boys have subconscious replaced their desire to hurt an animal with an urge to actually kill a person. The fact that the beast has now become a person could also mean that the boys have turned into beasts themselves! The boys want so badly to kill Simon (because of the savage beast within them) that they see Simon for what they want him to be and thus give way to their primitive urges.
Simon’s death in the hands his own companions, to whom he tries to reveal a fundamental truth, is tragically ironic. No longer contented with killing pigs, the boys have moved on to killing human beings and the “tearing of teeth and claws” show us how the boys are behaving like the beast themselves!
What is worse, even the ‘good’ boys like Ralph, Piggy, Samneric who joined in the killing of Simon will not accept responsibility for the death of Simon. Piggy persists in thinking him “batty” and Ralph, while he recognises that murder has been committed, speaks about it with a “kind of feverish excitement in his voice”, as if recognising the thrill of their evil deeds. This shows how evil is present in everyone, even the most well-behaved and civilised.
Where the boys could have previously been blinded by the excitement of the chant in the dark and too overcome with mass hysteria that they killed Simon, they cannot be similarly excused for the killing of Piggy which was committed in bright daylight.
In Chapter Eleven, Ralph, Piggy, Samneric make their way to Castle Rock holding the conch, bent on retrieving Piggy’s glasses which had been stolen by Jack’s tribe. However, even the power of the conch is insufficient to protect Piggy from the savagery that Jack has unleashed. In Piggy’s final speech, he asks a series of questions:
“Which is better – to be a pack of painted niggers like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?”…
“Which is better – to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”…
“Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”…
Here, Piggy makes a futile attempt to appeal to the sense of civility in the boys and to the moral sense of what is “right” and wrong. However, he does not understand that this method will not work on Jack’s tribe who are no longer concerned with doing things “right” and playing a fair “game”.
Thus, Piggy’s questions are unanswered indirectly when Roger, “with a sense of delirious abandonment”, topples the huge rock and kills Piggy. This is a final confirmation of the fact that evil now reigns on the island and the fact that evil has triumphed over good.
Piggy’s death symbolises the ‘death’ of intellect, logic and reason which he has come to represent. Thus, when the conch dies with Piggy (“exploded into a thousand white fragments”), Golding is suggesting that democracy cannot prevail over human beings.
As such, the killing of Piggy can be viewed as the obliteration of intellect and reason from the island. After the higher ideals of religion and poetry (poetic beauty in Simon’s surroundings) are destroyed with Simon’s death, the intellectual form of society with its laws and democracy is killed with Piggy’s death.
With these three incidents, we see how the boys gradually become complete savages. Although children are traditionally thought to be innocent and that they become corrupted only because of society, Golding destroys this belief by showing how even the supposedly ‘pure’ and ‘untainted’ children are capable of evil and cruelty.
Although the boys begin by trying to create a civilised society similar to what they are familiar with, they gradually reject these restrictions and revert to primitive ways of savages.
In this way, Golding reveals the “darkness in man’s heart” by showing us the evil within the boys – they are the beasts themselves!