Using Fear to Control the Masses: A Comparison of Lord of the Flies and The Crucible
Human nature causes similar behavior when conflict arises, regardless of what group one may be in. This is illustrated in many different writings over time. For example, the societies from Lord of the Flies and The Crucible, while they have several obvious differences, but they are very similar. Both societies had the potential to be successful, yet ultimately collapsed when conflict approached. Groups can be dangerous, controlled by fear, and are heavily influenced by their environment. This is illustrated through the many sets of comparisons between the two stories.
Throughout both of these narratives, many comparisons can be drawn between characters. One of the most prominent examples is of Jack and Abigail. Jack and Abigail are both clearly the antagonists of the stories, and are hungry for power. They strive to hinder the goals of the protagonists of their respective stories by creating obstacles along the way. Both antagonists formed their own groups to build their power, and used fear to exercise control over the members. This is proven when Jack threatens the boys after Piggy’s death in order to keep them in check. “See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I mean that! There isn’t a tribe for you anymore! The conch is gone- I’m chief!” (Golding, 18).
This demonstrates how one can use fear to control the behavior of others. Knowing that the other boy have seen what happened to Piggy, Jack confidentiality uses threats to assure them that if they do not listen to him, they could experience a similar fate. Likewise in The Crucible, Abigail also uses fear to maintain control over the girls by threatening to hurt them if they share her secret. Like the boys from Lord of the Flies, the girls oblige.
While Jack and Abigail are the antagonists of the stories, Ralph and John Proctor are the protagonists, and also share similarities. To begin with, Ralph and John are both clearly the main characters, and are driven to fix their societies. Ralph and John are aware of their situations as the plots thicken, and become targets as new groups form in their societies because they stand in the was of the antagonists achieving their goals. However, they stick to their morals and remain committed to their leadership roles as they strive to help their societies. Ralph reveals his leadership qualities early on, and demonstrates them throughout the whole novel. One example is when Ralph feels the group struggling, and he calls an assembly in order to address the situation. “We need an assembly.
Not for fun. Not for laughing and falling off the log. Not for making jokes, or for cleverness. Not for these things. But to put things straight.” (Golding 79). This shows Ralph’s strong leadership qualities, and his ability to prioritize the good of the group over anything else. Similar to Ralph, John Proctor understands what is happening in Salem, and that the only way to stop all of the accusations of witchcraft is to reveal the truth. Consequently, John involves himself in the trials and does all he can to help the small town.
Not only are there numerous character similarities, but the settings are very similar as well. The small settlement in Salem in 1692 from The Crucible is like the island from Lord of the Flies in several ways, predominantly with societal problems. Both are isolated, start out with a stable society that is later torn apart, and they represent the world on much smaller scales. In Lord of the Flies Ralph takes over as chief and the boys start off in a stable and comfortable society. As the story progresses however, Jack craves power and begins to destroy the once strong society. Soon after Jack gains power, Ralph’s group is left in complete ruin with Jack leading a savage tribe. One factor that heavily contributes to his actions are the environment. The deserted island isolated from other places causes the boys to go crazy until they are unrecognizable from their former selves, proving that groups can be heavily influenced by their environment.
A few of the savages are talking about Jack, and how he decided to beat one of the other boys. “He got angry and made us tie Wilfred up. He’s been tied for hours, waiting.” (Golding 159). At this point the tribe of boys had turned crazy, and clearly their wild environment was a factor. Similar to The Crucible, the girls succumbed to their environment by being afraid of witchcraft.
One final comparison between Lord of the Flies and The Crucible is between what brought fear to each society. On the island the boys became paranoid with a mysterious creature rumored to roam the island, although no proof of such a being existed. In The Crucible, Salem is struck with fear when potential witchcraft is introduced. Both of these are mysterious problems that society believes exists, although no real proof can confirm it. These also act as a cover up for the truth, which causes irrational decisions, and is symbolic of fear. On the island, there is talk of some unknown creature. “They talk of a thing, a dark thing, a beast, some sort of animal.” (Golding 83).
These mysterious conflicts that arise in the societies cause rash decisions by the groups. For instance after the boys became afraid of the beast, they formed a savage tribe which included giving sacrifices and offerings to the creature. This ultimately ended with two dead children. In The Crucible, the town reacts very harshly to all of the rumors of witchcraft, and within weeks they had hung 19 people. These overreactions and flawed decisions prove that groups can be very dangerous at times. Although both societies started out calm and organized, both found themselves in complete and utter chaos.
To conclude, Lord of the Flies and The Crucible are very similar. Both provide great examples as to why terror, environment, and endangerment are all possible factors of societies and groups. Both stories have similar plots, characters, and settings to help the reader understand group dynamics. While groups can make a person feel more comfortable and safe, there are many consequences that could pose a threat. All of these factors may lead people to wonder, is human nature to blame, or is it controllable?
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