PHS Honors Essay Project: The Altruism of Man
To help one understand man's true intentions, they must look at the true nature of man. The true nature of man is inherently altruistic.
The inherent altruism of man can be demonstrated throughout The Lord of the Flies. Throughout the story, The Lord of the Flies demonstrates the true nature of man as being inherently altruistic. In the beginning, the boys function as one to light the fire that will ultimately play a role in the boy’s escape. “They found the likeliest path down and began tugging at the dead wood. And the small boys who had reached the top came sliding too till everyone but Piggy was busy” (Golding 39). When the boys landed on the island, they could have turned on each other but instead chose to work together as a team. After the boys started to lose touch with themselves, Simon remained altruistic. “Simon, sitting between the twins and Piggy, wiped his mouth and shoved his piece of meat over the rocks to Piggy, who grabbed it” (Golding 74). When the hunters kill their first pig, the group starts to break down. They lose their harmony as a group due to the hunters only wanting to hunt and the other boys focusing on escaping. Simon maintains his altruism when the group breaks down because he remains peaceful and respectful towards all the boys and never falters from his moral compass. Similar to Simon, when Ralph encountered the naval officer at the end of the book, it contributed to Ralph realising who he truly was. “But the island was scorched up like dead wood-Simon was dead-and Jack had...The tears began to flow and sobs shook [Ralph]” (Golding 202). When Ralph reflects on the events that occurred on the island, he is shaken. He can not fathom the idea of Simon being dead and what Jack has done. If Ralph was not altruistic, he would not be mourning the friends he lost. He would not feel the loss of his innocence. Ralph is altruistic because even when the boys are rescued, he thinks of his friends. The Lord of the Flies shows the inherent altruism of man even if there are moments where man seems to be inherently evil.
The actions of the firefighters during 9/11 can also represent the altruistic nature of man. An article written by Patrick Keiger, which described the events of 9/11 in order, stated “Six minutes later, the first contingent of New York City firefighters—two ladder and two engine companies—had arrived at the stricken building. They had just begun to climb a stairwell to reach people trapped on the upper floors…” Only six minutes after the first plane hit the North tower, firefighters were arriving on the scene and rushing to help those trapped in the towers. Maia Szalavitz wrote an article to disprove the true nature of man as being altruistic. Maia’s article is called Is Human Nature Fundamentally Selfish or Altruistic? Szalavitz mentions “human nature is fundamentally selfish and that each man exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his happiness is his highest moral purpose.” The bravery of the firefighters on 9/11 proves that humans are not fundamentally selfish. If humans were selfish and existed for his own then there would not have been many people going back to help those in the towers. It is a firefighters job to go into dangerous situations and save lives. However, they went back into the building, not because it was their job but because they wanted to save as many lives as they could. Through The Lord of the Flies and 9/11, man is proved to be inherently altruistic. Man's inherent altruism can be shown throughout other books as well.
The Chronicles of Narnia is similar to The Lord of the Flies in multiple ways. Both books are about a group of British kids, in the middle of a war, who leave their homes and end up in a new environment. One of the main characters in The Chronicles of Narnia, Edmund, shows that man is inherently altruistic. On Edmund’s first trip to Narnia, he is tempted by a woman called the White Witch. The witch tells Edmund, “You would be enjoying yourself so much that you wouldn’t want the bother of going to fetch them. No. You must go back to your own country now and come to me another day, with them, you understand. It is no good coming without them” (Lewis 19). Edmund is blinded by his selfish desire and her temptation, that he betrays his siblings later on. After Edmund endures torture from the witch and is saved by Aslan’s rescue party, he apologizes for his betray.
As soon as they had breakfast they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court...Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, “I’m sorry,” and everyone said, “That’s all right.” (Lewis 74)
Although Edmund has shown that he has evil tendencies, he is ultimately altruistic. He managed to escape the witch and apologize for his actions. In the article written by Adrian F. Ward called Scientists Probe Human Nature--and Discover We Are Good, After All, it states “...it seems that we are an overwhelmingly cooperative species, willing to give for the good of the group even when it comes at our own expense.” Edmund, in the end, was the one to sacrifice his desires to save his family and other Narnians.
After multiple analyses of different sources, one can understand that the true nature of man is inherently altruistic. Although there are times when a man comes face to face with evil, they ultimately are altruistic in the end. If a man was not faced with challenges they would not be able to show their true altruism.
Golding, William, et al. William Golding's Lord of the Flies: Text, Notes, & Criticism.
Penguin Books, 2016.
Kiger, Patrick J. “How 9/11 Became the Deadliest Day in History for U.S.
Firefighters.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 20 May 2019,
Lewis, C. S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Geoffrey Bles , 1950.
Szalavitz, Maia. “Is Human Nature Fundamentally Selfish or Altruistic?” Time,
Time, 8 Oct. 2012, healthland.time.com/2012/10/08/is-human-nature-
Ward, Adrian F. “Scientists Probe Human Nature--and Discover We Are Good,
After All.” Scientific American, 20 Nov. 2012,
This is one of 24 essays that will be written by PHS Honors English students in collaboration with The Portland Beacon over the next six months. Ms. Chandra Polasek, PHS Honors English and Drama teacher, will provide the essays on a regular basis to The Beacon. All essays are original work of the students.