Daily Archives: November 22, 2018

Lord of The Flies – When Id controls Ego

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a mind-boggling story about a band of English young boys aged from 7 years and 12 years marooned in an island after a plane crush in the wake of atomic world war. Written in 1950s, the book questions the defects of human society in respect of the defects of human nature as symbolized by the stranded boys who have once civilized under the parental/societal guidance descends to savagery, the primitive state of human condition, which is operated by Id alone. And it only takes about 2 weeks or so to return to the instinctual stage of mankind. Which is all the more scary yet true whether we accept.

There are two extreme characters in the story: Ralph, a headstrong, sophisticated boy whose father is a naval officer. His primary goal is to be rescued by a ship, to return to the the world of civilization where all’s will be normal and he will live normal. So his main concern is to keep fire ablaze to signal his existence, the last remnant of civilization, the surviving Ego that “wills” his societal existence struggling for existential meaning that a civil community confers upon his singularity and uniqueness for recognition. As Ralph asserts, “No fire, No smoke, No rescue.” To him fire is Hope that will save him from falling into savagery by which other boys blindly and almost unconsciously have become animalistic, acting on instincts to satisfy their most basic desire only: Eating by Hunting.

The Hunters are led by obstreperous, belligerent choir leader Jack. In fact, the figure of Jack represents many interesting aspects of psychotherapy. In the respect of psychoanalysis by Fraud, he symbolizes Id that “drives” all his acts and modus operandi. To him fire does not seem to matter. He does not even want to be rescued. What he excites him is a process of hunting a pig – especially a female one – for provisional entertainment and survival on an island. In the view of individual psychology by Adler, gaining power over his “tribe” of the boys and becoming a chieftain by forcefully and unjustly abdicating the legitimate Ralph takes precedent of anything, including keeping fire and going back to the cradle of civilization. The limit of ego qua responsibility does not apply to Jack, who lets his Id dominate his being. According to logotheraphy by Viktor E. Frankl, Jack has ceased to fulfill his responsibilities as a cooperative cohort of Ralph to work together to protect themselves, to guard fire, to maintain their orders until a rescue comes their way.

And there is pitiful Piggy. We don’t know the real name of Piggy. But we know that he does not want to be called such but that the boys, including the civilized Ralph, who can blow a conch by the encouragement of Piggy. The narrative tells us that it’s not that the accents or fumbling that makes him a buffoon of the boys; it’s his corpulent appearance that loses him respect among the boys. Besides, he’s the only one that wears a pair of spectacles are used as a magnifying glass to gather heat to make fire. In fact, I view the figure of Piggy as a voice of the intelligentsia.  As Ralph laments at the tragic death of Piggy, he’s the one who “talks sense.” In fact, his spectacles, cruelly damaged by the sneak ambush led by Jack and his savage tribe, symbolize the perspectives of the intellectual that view the state of human nature in danger of retrogression and decay to Zero, the raw, primitive nature devoid of existential meanings and values attached thereto. And the boys ridicule him, deriding his attempts to call their attention to reality of their situations and to address the substantial issues to be reckoned and resolved. Piggy is a Thinker, a voice of Rationality that does not seem to be a matter where Id and Ego stand in contention when human nature is stripped to its nakedness outside human society.

To recapitulate, Lord of The Flies by William Golding attests to loss of humanity as a result of catastrophic event in which a survival of the fittest seems only true. This may include a war in consideration of the year the book was written; it’s 1954, only 9 years after WWII. Golding saw the evils of the war – the countless deaths, the famine, the ruins of houses and building and nature – the Wholesale Destruction of Humanity. What had once been a great civilization fell into a great catastrophe by the hands of Humankind.  A Paradoxical truth that ascertains decay of human society debased into brute savageness operated on ferocious instincts for survival… Lord of the Flies is the fable of the lost children for the adults.

P.S. This is my another bygone writing about William Golding’s dystopian novel Lord of the Flies that I had written prior to the inception of my blog.

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Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!

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It was more than 10 years ago when I first read Herman Melville’s Bartleby, a short story about an unwonted young man employed as a scrivener by a Wall Street lawyer. At that time, Bartleby stroke me as a very eccentric, imprudent worker who had the temerity to reject his boss’s orders. He was just a mentally deranged man with only a few words, other than “I would prefer not to do …”

But now I see him different. Since I re-read the story this afternoon, I have felt bottomless sympathy for Bartleby. Mixed with pathos and sprinkles of humor in the narrative of his benevolent former employer, the figure of Bartleby evokes springs of human compassion and humanity itself. And my feelings for this tragic scrivener amount to what the narrator felt about his former employee.

I am not intent on “analyzing” the psychological aspects of Bartleby and his former Wall Street lawyer boss. And I think not that even the writer Melville himself had such psychoanalytical views on these characters in mind when he wrote the story. To me the story itself shows what made a sensitive man like Bartleby to such demise in the eyes of a compassionate man – and a decent employer seldom found these days. Loneliness, Hopelessness, Sorrow, and Reality of Death all packaged in written forms burned in flames stagnated the humanness in the forlorn scrivener. The Death of Humanity, that is. Having worked in the Office of Dead Letters at Washington would suffice it. Surely, there is no doubt that Bartleby was mentally disturbed, but who would hate or even despise him for his malaise?…

Then readers might object to the premise that it’s only a fictional story in which no such characters will/would exist in reality. But I think not so. As a matter of fact, I have always believed that fictions are always built upon factual elements of human life to a certain degree. Dismissing stories as creations of imaginativeness seems to miss the fundamental truths laid under changes and choice of our human life with a bit of creative imaginations. Ditto Stephen King, who has once said that the stories are artifacts that are not really made up, but that are based upon preexisting objects we discover.

The tall, lean, pallid and lugubrious image of Bartleby the Scrivener still lingers in my mind… Having dealt with tons of letters from those who died in despair, those who died hopeless, and those who died suffocated by insurmountable sufferings, Bartleby had lost his own sense of existence, feeling utterly dispirited, pessimistic, and lethargic in performing demands of his duty. It was the loss of meaning of life that made him passively resistant to all the ordinary functions of daily life which all seemed insignificant to him. The life itself was nihilistic and hence non-existential to Bartleby. Humanity in the expressions of feelings and emotions meant nothing to him; it had ceased to exist in the form of dead letter attesting to existential horrors, which had led the authors to death, which had taken the poor Bartleby as the witness thereof.

Thus, the lamentable outcry of the narrator still deeply reverberates in my mind even after I closed the book: “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!”

P.S. This is my bygone writing about Herman Melville’s classic short story of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” that I had written prior to the inception of my blog.