Photo: Olivia Baxter and Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander
Dear William Golding,
"And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy." Your words showed me how power can corrupt us.
I had never thought about how power can destroy us. Lord of the Flies showed me that even the most civilized of people will, if given the opportunity, become the most savage of people.
I like to think of myself as a Ralph, but in reality if put in a situation such as being stranded in the middle of nowhere on a mysterious island I would most likely turn out to be a Jack. Jack is of savage nature and killed Piggy specifically because he just didn't like him. I was stunned by how violent these English schoolboys became as their time on the island lengthened. Then I realized it is not unusual to see this in my own life. I constantly see stories on the news about someone being murdered or a store being burglarized. One example I have seen lately was when a store had a big sale and people were outside waiting for the doors to open. Customers were very cramped because they were so eager to get inside. When the doors finally opened, shoppers pushed and shoved and one man actually ended up being killed because he got trampled to death. Ever since I read your book I have recognized savageness in myself and in my daily life.
In my school and even just out with friends, I see others "killing" with their words and actions. I want to be like Ralph, constantly trying to do the right thing, but I tend to act more like Jack. When I'm with friends I feel more powerful; I feel like if I do say a bad word or make an unkind remark to a passerby or some person not in my group that it won't affect me. I feel protected as if no consequences will come against me. Even just walking down the halls I see kids who just push others around because they enjoy the sense of power it gives them. Sometimes kids wield power emotionally and take advantage of others for their own selfish purposes, then when this "friend" is no longer needed, they drop him or her. One example in my own life of this is that I sometimes find myself acting as friends with another person because none of my other friends will be at that place, and then when I'm back with the others, I'll leave that person behind and make fun of them, acting like we have never been friends.
Every day I see kids like Jack over-powering kids like the Littleuns, not just physically, but emotionally; and every day I see kids who have their confidence snapped in half, because of those who think power gives them the right to do that. Every day, I try more and more to be the Ralph, the one trying to heal what the Jacks have done, the one trying to do right.
Power. Tyranny. Selfish. Savage. These are all words that describe man. Whether we like it or not, for the majority of us having power changes us, and not for the best. We are the beasts that haunt each others' night mares, we are the ones that kill each other with words and actions and as you say in your book, "Maybe there is a beast....maybe it's only us."