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Bills 1 Zachary Bills Mr. Austin Stevenson RVSA/ Honors English I 22 November 2011 Alas, Babylon and Lord of the Flies: Experiments on Man’s Nature In the novels Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank and Lord of the Flies by William Golding their respective societies fall into desolation and the response to this is explored. Although the scale of Alas, Babylon’s thermonuclear war was many orders of magnitude greater than the plane crash that marooned the boys, the resulting isolation provided for regression into a “dark age”. Man’s ambitious nature ensured a fight for the power vacuum left by the loss of social and governmental organizations. Growing desperation and increasingly desperate circumstances placed the need for survival over pre-existing value systems and social conditioning. The atavistic regression in the two novels both share striking parallels and major differences which can be explored through the cataclysm that brought the fall of law and order, the power struggles which amplified this, and the brutal methods required for survival. Uncontrollable catastrophe plunged the characters of both novels into chaos and isolation. Each calamity’s effects on the population it targeted are similar, yet the nature of those affected led to different outcomes. In Lord of the Flies a plane crashed a group of upper-class British boys onto a desert island in the Pacific. It left them alone, with simply themselves and the resources available there. Without any survivors with positions of authority or leadership skill in addition to the lack of resources, the nature of the event helped to augment the natural regression. However, with Alas, Babylon, the nuclear war that destroyed western civilization left Fort Repose largely unaffected. As a result of this, the city itself survived but transportation and


Bills 2 communication with other areas was halted, meaning that the only remaining supplies were those in one’s home or what remained on stocked on store shelves. This resulted in a mad rush for supplies with theft and banditry among some citizens. On the other hand, the positions and institutions of power remained and the previously developed relationships within the community allowed for an element of teamwork and cooperation. Figures such as Randy were able to exert authority based on their previous leadership and a firm law code was set in place. It got to the point where the town restored the library and educated its youth. Ultimately, the fact that the disaster spared most of the town allowed for eventual order; not the anarchy and murder of Lord of the Flies. Considering the calamities that started both plots and the dramatic effects it had, if we were in the same scenario, could we handle it any better? Following the disaster, social and governmental organizations ceased to exist leading to a fight to restore equilibrium. Both texts have a struggle to gain leadership but the effects of both power struggles vary significantly. Lord of the Flies leaves young boys with no positions of authority on an island where survival is difficult and leadership is highly important. They do not know or have mutual respect for one another, resulting in a competition for leadership. Swaying the vote by brandishing a conch shell, Ralph is elected leader to the ire of Jack, who draws more and more power as the story progresses. He achieves this by playing on the hunters’ animal instincts and desire for meat, thus creates a frenzied atmosphere of killing and death. Ignoring the rational processes of Ralph, the hunters lost respect for him and Jack becomes the de facto leader of the island. Ralph losing his authority coincides with the island completing its regression, leading to a reign of terror with open murder. The power struggle became a major obstacle to survival, taking the rational leader away and replacing him with a harbinger of chaos. In Alas Babylon, Fort Repose’s path to leadership was much more harmonious. Small groups of


Bills 3 families combined for their mutually benefit and these groups acted fairly independent. It wasn’t until disease and bandits became an issue that the town received leadership. As an Air Force officer and natural leader, Randy assumed the duties of chief and applied martial law. Although his leadership gave harsh punishment to those you broke the code, we worked for the benefit of the town and helped achieve order from the vandal who tried to take it. Due to this, Randy’s seize of power was for altruistic purposes and benefited all led to order while Jack’s manipulations brought out man’s worst nature. Ironically, the anarchy caused by the disaster lead to chaos; an opportunity for one man to exercise total power. Despite the social conditioning that allowed them to formerly be productive members of society, some citizens from both novels shunned these rules to try to maintain the best possible lifestyle. The hunters in Lord of the Flies exemplify this with their brutal nature and frenzied killing. They were previously wealthy, well-mannered, ten year-old students that through frenzy and societal breakdown lusted meat and blood. One of these boys, Roger, became a sadistic torturer, who killed Piggy and delighted in the death of the sow. In the middle of the process of Roger gaining his extreme cruelty, Golding describes his want to through a rock at the head of one of the other boys, but the laws of society held him back and he put the rock back down. Clearly, over the course of the novel this ceased to be a factor in his thought process and he was able to kill. Fear and the quest for survival over-ruled societal conditioning and lead to atavism. Likewise, in Alas, Babylon bandits and thieves stole property and committed many acts they never would have done as normal members of society. Randy himself stated “The Christian Era has ended” upon seeing a broken down car. He, a very altruistic and good person, considered not helping her to aid his chances of getting home. Upon seeing the explosion, the townspeople rushed to stores and gas stations to hoard all possible resources, thus hurting others. People


Bills 4 began to stop thinking rationally and concentrated their effort on personal survival. However, unlike Lord of the Flies the citizens of Fort Repose eventually created an ordered community where they worked together. Throughout both novels, man’s dark side was revealed and without the mask of safety and prosperity, it was quickly uncovered. In the two novels, both societies regress into atavism but Frank and Golding’s views significantly differ. Alas, Babylon sees society come together to help fight the decay whereas Lord of the Flies ends with all but Ralph becoming frenzied and animal-like. This is largely due to the nature of the disaster and the population it affected. Still, the struggle for power and the breakdown of social codes augmented the decay and led to a more chaotic state in both novels. Ultimately, the boys on the island got an opportunity that none of the atomic survivors did, an escape back to normalcy and civilization. Upon rescue, they reflected on man’s dark side and failings under adverse conditions. Reflecting on the events that happened, Ralph profoundly commented on the dark events that occurred and “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.”


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