To what extent does environment play an important role in character’s behaviour towards others?
Books: Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, 1861
Lord of the Flies, William Golding, 1954
Environment is a vital factor in determining the behaviour of characters; the books both agree and contradict with each other though. William Golding is of the view that humans share an innate evil: he strips boys of the order of society; he places them in a primitive environment; and in the subsequent story, their conduction descends from that of being civilised into that of evil chaos. He employs Simon, a boy of rare quality, to illustrate this by having him realise that the beast is not real, it exists only “inside us”. Charles Dickens writes about the corruption of an innocent boy too, as he climbs up the social ladder in this Bildungsroman. However his principal message is not that we are all inherently evil- for example his characters such as Joe and Biddy are good at heart- but he does agree that man cannot escape from man’s own true-self: Pip is enticed by the happiness he falsely thinks wealth will bring but eventually discovers the deception and that wealth does not buy real happiness. For Dickens poverty is so often the cause of crime and a lot of criminals have been unfortunate and are actually decent people. The books similarly talk about the corruption of boys due to environment- and their own nature- but Golding expresses he believes we are instinctively bad whereas Dickens believes: some people are essentially good; some people are bad; and there’s a grey area in between.
Both novels take different stances from each other on the innocence of children and how environment affects that. In the Lord of the Flies, the innocent children (aside from the working-class Piggy, who uses poor speech such as “All them other kids” and "can't catch me breath,") are middle-class: therefore, when they are placed into an unknown, primitive environment they play as kids do but they also bring the elements from their refined, middle-class lives and establish law and order: they appoint a “chief”, Ralph; “assemblies” are called with “the conch” which is also used to give permission for speaking during these assemblies, so as to establish order; in the first assembly they decide they’ll “have lots of rules”. However, as time goes on and civilisation seems further away, as hope- and want- of being rescued fades, their system degenerates. The ever-present violence succeeds peace: originally it starts of as being a game, Ralph “returned as a fighter-plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned Piggy”; when they eventually hunt their first pig, Jack boasts, "You should have seen the blood!"; the boys kill Simon in a frenzied ritual dance, even Jack and Piggy are not innocent as they too were present though they try to forget it; Piggy is killed; then Ralph is hunted like an animal, by the “savages” of Jack’s dictatorship, he only survives because he runs into the...